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Full text of "True tales of mountain adventure, for non-climbers young and old"



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY 




CO 
CO 

u 



BY 



MRS. AUBREY LE BLOND 







mm 



LIBRARY 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. 



Class 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN 
ADVENTURE 




MKI.CHIOK ANDF.KKC.C. 1894. 



TRUE TALES OF 
MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

FOR NON-CLIMBERS YOUNG AND OLD 



BY 

MRS AUBREY LE BLOND 
(MRS MAIN) 




NEW YORK 
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY 

1903 



rights reserved.) 



TO 
MR EDWARD WHYMPER 

WHOSE SI'IRI TKD WRITINGS AND GRAPHIC PENCIL FIRST AWAKENEI> 

AN INTEREST IN MOUNTAINEERING AMONGST THOSE WHO 

HAD NEVER CLIMBED, I DEDICATE THESE TRUE TALES 

FROM THE HILLS, THE MATERIAL FOR SOME OF 

THE MOST STRIKING OF WHICH I OWE 

TO HIS GENEROSITY. 



212154 



PREFACE 

^ ^HERE is no manlier sport in the world 

than mountaineering. 

It is true that all the sports Englishmen 
take part in are manly, but mountaineering 
is different from others, because it is sport 
purely for the sake of sport. There is no 
question of beating any one else, as in a race 
or a game, or of killing an animal or a bird 
as in hunting or shooting. A mountaineer 
sets his skill and his strength against the 
difficulty of getting to the top of a steep peak. 
Either he conquers the mountain, or it 
conquers him. If he fails, he keeps on 
trying till he succeeds. This teaches him 
perseverance, and proves to him that anything 
is possible if he is determined to do it. 



IX 



PREFACE 

In mountaineering, all the party share the 
pleasures and the dangers. Every climber 
has to help the others. Every climber has 
to rely both on himself and on his companions. 

Mountaineering makes a person quick in 
learning how to act in moments of danger. 
It cultivates his presence of mind, it teaches 
him to be unselfish and thoughtful for others 
who may be with him. It takes him amongst 
the grandest scenery in the world, it shows 
him the forces of nature let loose in the blind- 
ing snow-storm, or the roaring avalanche. It 
lifts him above all the petty friction of daily 
life, and takes him where the atmosphere is 
always pure, and the outlook calm and wide. 
It brings him health, and leaves him delightful 
recollections. It gives him friends both 
amongst his fellow-climbers, and in the faithful 
guides who season after season accompany him. 
It is a pursuit which he can commence early 
in life, and continue till old age, for the choice 
of expeditions is endless, and ascents of all 



PREFACE 

scales of difficulty and of any length are easily 
found. 

That I do not exaggerate the joys and the 
benefits of mountaineering will be borne out 
by those extracts from the true tales from 
the hills of which this book chiefly consists. 
Some may think I have dwelt at undue length 
on the catastrophes which have darkened the 
pages of Alpine history. I do not apologize. 
If in one single instance any one who reads 
these pages becomes afterwards a climber, and 
takes warning from anything I have told him, 
I am amply justified. 

It has been difficult in a work like this to 
know always what to include and what to 
omit. My guiding principle has been to give 
preference to descriptions which are either so 
exciting by reason of the facts narrated, or else 
so brilliantly and wittily written, that they 
cannot fail to excite the reader's interest. To 
these I have added four chapters, those on 
mountaineering, on glaciers, on avalanches, 



XI 



PREFACE 

and on the guides of the Alps, which may 
help to make climbing more intelligible to 
those who have never attempted it. 

My warm thanks are due to Sir Leslie Stephen, 
Messrs Whymper, Tuckett, Charles Pilkington, 
and Clinton Dent who have rendered the 
production of this book possible by allowing 
me to quote at considerable length from their 
writings ; also to Messrs Longman who have 
permitted me to make extracts from works 
of which they hold the copyright, and to 
Messrs Newnes and Messrs Hutchinson for 
their kind permission to re-print portions of 
my articles which have appeared in their 
publications. 

I am also under a debt of gratitude to Mi- 
Philip Gosset, who has not only allowed me to 
reprint his account of the avalanche on the 
Haut-de-Cry, but has also most kindly placed 
his wide knowledge of glaciers at my disposal 
by offering to revise the chapter I have written 
on that subject in this book. 



xn 



PREFACE 

Dr Kennedy, whose beautiful edition of 
Mr Moore's diary, " The Alps in 1864," 
recently appeared, has generously given me 
permission to make any extracts I desire 
from it. 

Colonel Arkwright, whose brother perished 
on Mont Blanc in 1866, has been good enough 
to allow me to reproduce a most interesting 
and hitherto unpublished photograph of the 
relics discovered in 1897. 

The illustrations, except those connected 
with the Arkwright accident, and a view of 
the Matterhorn, by the late Mr W. F. Donkin, 
are from photographs by me. By them I 
have tried rather to show how climbers carry 
out their mountaineering than to illustrate any 
particular locality. 

In my own writings I have adopted, in 
the spelling of names of places, the modern 
official forms, but, of course, when quoting I 
have kept to those followed by each writer. 

If, in the following pages, I have given any 
xiii 



PREFACE 

pleasure to those who have never scaled a 
peak, or have perhaps recalled happy days 
amongst the mountains to a fellow-climber, it 
will be a very real gratification to me. 

E. LE BLOND. 



67, THE DRIVE, 
BRIGHTON, Oct. 30^, 1902. 



xiv 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. VAGE 

PREFACE vii. 

I. WHAT IS MOUNTAINEERING? .... I 

II. A FEW WORDS ABOUT GLACIERS. ... 7 

III. AVALANCHES 1$ 

IV. THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 22 

v. THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS (Continued) . . 50 

VI. AN AVALANCHE ON THE HAUT-DE-CRY A RACE 59 

FOR LIFE 

VII. CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE ON THE MATTER- 
HORN THE ICE-AVALANCHE OF THE ALTELS 
AN AVALANCHE WHICH ROBBED A LADY 

OF A GARMENT 72 

VIII. LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS ... 92 

IX. THE MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL ALPINE TRAGEDIES IO7 

X. A WONDERFUL SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE . 113 
XI. AN ADVENTURE ON THE TRIFT PASS THE 

PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS . . .122 

XII. AN EXCITING PASSAGE OF THE COL DE PILATTE 134 
XV 



CONTENTS 

CMAK 1-AGK 

XIII. AN ADVENTURE ON THE ALETSCH GLACIER A 

LOYAL COMPANION A BRAVE GUIDE . . 142 

XIV. A WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES A PERIL- 

OUS CLIMK 153 

XV. A FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES . . 170 

XVI. THE PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS THE 

FIRST ASCENT BY A WOMAN OF MONT BLANC 194 

XVII. THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE . . . 2C>8 

XVIII. THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 221 

XIX. THE MOST FAMOUS MOUNTAIN IN THE ALPS 

THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN . . 250 

XX. SOME TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN . . 268 

XXI. THE WHOLE DUTY OF THE CLIMBER ALPINE 

DISTRESS SIGNALS 289 

GLOSSARY 293 

INDEX 295 



XVI 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 

Melchior Anderegg, 1894 . . . Frontispiece 

Climbers Descending the Ortler .... 2 

The Aletsch Glacier from Bel Alp ... 7 

General View of a Glacier .... 8 

A Glacier Table : after a Storm . . . .11 

A Crevassed Glacier . . . . .13 

An Avalanche near Bouveret : a Tunnel through an 

Avalanche . . . . . .17 

Edouard Cupelin ...... 22 

Descending a Rock Peak near Zermatt . . . 31 

A Big Crevasse : the Gentle Persuasion of the Rope . 37 
A Typical Couloir : the Ober Gabelhorn : the Wrong 

Way to Descend : Very Soft Snow ... 42 
Piz Palii : Hans and Christian Grass ... 44 
Christian Aimer, 1894 ..... 54 

An Avalanche Falling ..... 59 

Eiger and Monch from Lauberhorn . . 66 

Avalanche Falling from the Wetterhorn ... 79 
On Monte Rosa ...... 83 

Mr Whymper : Mrs Aubrey Le Blond : Group on a 

High Peak in Winter . . . .85 



XV 



\ 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Mrs Aubrey Le Blond and Joseph Imboden : Crossing 

a Snow Couloir ..... 89 

Mont Blanc : Nicolas Winhart : a Banker of Geneva : 

the Relics of the Arkwright Accident . . 92 

Alpine Snow-Fields ..... 108 

A Start by Moonlight : Shadows at Sunrise : a Stand- 
ing Glissade : a Sitting Glissade . . .136 
On a Snow-Covered Glacier .... 148 

Martin Schocher and Schnitzler . . . .150 

Exterior of a Climber's Hut : Interior . . .157 

The Meije : Ascending a Snowy Wall . . . 171 

Top of Piz Scerscen : Party Descending Piz Bernina : 

On a Mountain Top : Descent of a Snow-Ridge . 194 
Hard Work : Setting Out in a Long Skirt . . 204 

A Steep Icy Slope : On the Top of a Pass . . 216 

A Slab of Rock : Negotiating a Steep Passage . . 225 

The Family of Herr Seiler, Zermatt : Going to Zermatt 

in the Olden Days ..... 250 

The Guides' Wall, Zermatt . . . .259 

The Zermatt Side of the Matterhorn : Rising Mists . 260 
A Bitterly Cold Day : The Matterhorn from the Zmutt 

Side ....... 265 

Jost, Porter of Hotel Monte Rosa, Zermatt . . 268 

Hoar Frost in the Alps ..... 274 



ERRATA 

The plate labelled to face page 225, to face page n. 
j) 5> "3- 



xvi 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN 
ADVENTURE 




TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN 
ADVENTURE 

CHAPTER I 
WHAT IS MOUNTAINEERING? 

TV/TOUNTAINEERING is not merely walking 
up hill. It is the art of getting safely up 
and down a peak where there is no path, and 
where steps may have to be cut in the ice ; it is 
the art of selecting the best line of ascent under con- 
ditions which vary from day to day. 

Mountaineering as a science took long to perfect 
It is more than a century since the first ascent 
of a big Alpine peak was accomplished, and the 
early climbers had but little idea of the dangers 
which they were likely to meet with. They could 
not tell when the snow was safe, or when it might 
slip away in an avalanche. They did not know where 
stones would be likely to fall on them, or when 

they were walking over one of those huge cracks 
A i 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

in the glacier known as crevasses, and lightly 
bridged over with winter snow, which might break 
away when they trod on it. However, they soon 
learnt that it was safer for two or more people to 
be together in such places than for a man to go 
alone, and when crossing glaciers they used the 
long sticks they carried as a sort of hand-rail, a 
man holding on to each end, so that if one tumbled 
into a hole the other could pull him out. Of course 
this was a very clumsy way of doing things, and 
before long it occurred to them that a much better 
plan would be to use a rope, and being all tied to 
it about 20 feet apart, their hands were left free, 
and the party could go across a snow - field and 
venture on bridged-over crevasses in safety. 

At first both guides and travellers carried long 
sticks called alpenstocks. If they came to a steep 
slope of hard snow or ice, they hacked steps up it 
with small axes which they carried slung on their 
backs. This was a very inconvenient way of going 
to work, as it entailed holding the alpenstock in 
one hand and using the axe with the other. So they 
thought of a better plan, and had the alpenstock 
made thicker and shorter, and fastened an axe-head 
to the top of it. This was gradually improved till 
it became the ice-axe, as used to-day, and as shown 

2 




Cl.IMUEKS DESCENDING A SNOW-CLAD PEAK (THE ORTI.EK). 



To /ncc p. 2, 



WHAT IS MOUNTAINEERING? 

in many of my photographs. This ice-axe is use- 
ful for various purposes besides cutting steps. If 
you dig in the head while crossing a snow-slope, it 
acts as an anchor, and gives tremendous hold, while 
to allude to its functions as a tin-opener, a weapon 
of defence against irate bulls on Alpine pastures, 
or as a means for rapidly passing through a crowd 
at a railway station, is but to touch on a very few 
of its admirable qualities. 

When people first climbed they went in droves 
on the mountains, or I should say rather on the 
mountain, for during the first half of the nineteenth 
century Mont Blanc was the object of nearly all 
the expeditions which set out for the eternal snows. 
After some years, however, it was found quite un- 
necessary to have so many guides and porters, and 
nowadays a party usually numbers four, two 
travellers and two guides, or three, consisting 
generally of one traveller and two guides, or 
occasionally five. Two is a bad number, as should 
one of them be hurt or taken ill, the other would 
have to leave him and go for help, though one of 
the first rules of mountaineering is that a man who 
is injured or indisposed must never be left alone on 
a mountain. Again, six is not a good number ; it 
is too many, as the members of the party are sure 

3 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

to get in each other's way, pepper each other with 
stones, and waste no end of time in wrangling as to 
when to stop for food, when to proceed, and which 
way to go up. A good guide will run the concern 
himself, and turn a deaf ear to all suggestions ; but 
the fact remains that six people had better split up 
and go on separate ropes. And if they also, in the 
case of rock peaks, choose different mountains, it is 
an excellent plan. The best of friends are apt to 
revile each other when stones, upset from above, 
come whistling about their ears. 

The early mountaineers were horribly afraid of 
places which were at all difficult to climb. Mere 
danger, however, had no terrors for them, and they 
calmly encamped on frail snow-bridges, or had 
lunch in the path of avalanches. After a time the 
dangerous was understood and avoided, and the 
difficult grappled with by increased skill, until about 
the middle of the nineteenth century there arose a 
class of experts, little, if at all, inferior to the best 
guides of the present day. 

The most active and intelligent of the natives of 
Chamonix, Zermatt, and the Bernese Oberland now 
learnt to find their way even on mountains new 
to them. Some were chamois hunters, and accus- 
tomed to climb in difficult places. Others, perhaps, 

4 



WHAT IS MOUNTAINEERING? 

had when boys minded the goats, and scrambled 
after them in all sorts of awkward spots. Others, 
again, had such a taste for mountaineering that 
they took to it the very first time they tried it. 
Of these last my own guide, Joseph Imboden, was 
one, and later on I will tell you of the extra- 
ordinary way in which he began his splendid 
career. 

It is from going with and watching how good 
guides climb that most people learn to become 
mountaineers themselves. Nearly all take guides 
whenever they ascend difficult mountains, but 
some are so skilful and experienced that they go 
without, though few are ever good enough to do 
this quite safely. 

I am often asked why people climb, and it is a 
hard question to answer satisfactorily. There is 
something which makes one long to mountaineer 
more and more, from the first time one tries it. 
All climbs are different. All views from moun- 
tains are different, and every time one climbs one 
is uncertain, owing to the weather or the possible 
state of the peak, if the top can be reached or not. 
So it is always a struggle between the mountain 
and the climber, and though perseverance, skill, 
experience, and pluck must give the victory to the 

5 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

climber in the end, yet the fight may be a long 
one, and it may be years before a particularly 
awkward peak allows one to stand on its summit. 

Perhaps, if you have patience to read what 
follows, you may better understand what moun- 
taineering is, and why most of those who have 
once tried it become so fond of it. 



CHAPTER II 

A FEW WORDS ABOUT GLACIERS 

/^\F all the beautiful and interesting things 
mountain districts have to show, none 
surpass the glaciers. 

Now a glacier is simply a river of ice, which 
never melts away even during the hottest summer. 
Glaciers form high up on mountains, where there 
is a great deal of snow in winter, and where it is 
never very hot even in summer. They are also 
found in northern lands, such as Greenland, and 
there, owing to the long cold winter and short 
summer, they come down to the very level of the 
sea. 

A glacier is formed in this way : There is a 
heavy fall of snow which lies in basins and little 
valleys high up *on the mountain side. The air 
is too cold for it to melt, and as more falls on the 
top of it the mass gets pressed down. Now, if 

7 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

you take a lump of snow in your hand and press 
it, you get an icy snow-ball. If you squeeze anything 
you make it warmer. The pressing down of the 
great mass of snow is like the squeezing of the 
ball in your hand. It makes it warmer, so that the 
snow first half melts and then gradually becomes 
ice. You bring about this change in your snow- 
ball in a moment. Nature, in making a glacier, 
takes much longer, so that what was snow one 
year is only partly ice the next it is known as 
nevt and it is not until after several seasons 
that it becomes the pure ice we see in the lower 
part of a glacier. 

One would fancy that if a quantity of snow falls 
every winter and does not all melt, the mountains 
must grow higher. But though only a little of the 
snow melts, it disappears in other ways. Some 
is evaporated into the atmosphere ; some falls off in 
avalanches. Most of it slowly flows down after 
forming itself into glaciers. For glaciers are 
always moving. The force of gravity makes them 
slide down over their rocky beds. They flow so 
slowly that we cannot see them move, in fact 
most of them advance only a few inches a day. 
But if a line of stakes is driven into the ice 
straight across a glacier, we shall notice in a few 

8 




d 

il 



Si 



- 

I s 



A FEW WORDS ABOUT GLACIERS 

weeks that they have moved down. And the 
most interesting part of it is that they will not 
have moved evenly, but those nearest the centre 
will have advanced further than those at the side. 
In short, a glacier flows like a river, the banks 
keeping back the ice at the side, as the banks of 
a river prevent it from running so fast at the edge 
as in the middle. 

A large glacier is fed by such a gigantic mass 
of snow that it is in its upper part hundreds of 
feet thick. Of course when it reaches warmer 
places it begins to melt. But the quantity of ice 
composing it is so great that it takes a long time 
before it disappears, and a big glacier sometimes 
flows down far below the wild and rocky parts of 
mountains and reaches the neighbourhood of 
forests and corn-fields. It is very beautiful at 
Chamonix to see the white, glittering ice of the 
Glacier des Bossons flowing in a silent stream 
through green meadows. 

The reason that mountaineers have to be careful 
in crossing glaciers is on account of the holes, 
cracks, or, to call them by their proper name, 
crevasses, which are met with on them. Ice, unlike 
water, is brittle, so it splits up into crevasses when- 
ever the glacier flows over a steep or uneven 

9 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

rocky bed. High up, where snow still lies, these 
chasms in the ice are often bridged over, and if a 
person ventures on one of these snow bridges it 
may break, and he may fall down the crevasse, 
which may be so deep that no bottom can be 
found to it. He is then either killed by the fall 
or frozen to death. If, as I have explained before, 
several climbers are roped together, they form a 
long string, like the tail of a kite, and not more 
than one is likely to break through at a time. 
As the rope is or ought to be kept tightly- 
stretched, he cannot fall far, and is easily pulled 
out again. 

The snow melts away off the surface of the 
glacier further down in summer. It is on this bare r 
icy stream, scarred all over with little channels 
full of water running merrily down the melting 
rough surface, that the ordinary tourist is taken 
when he visits a glacier during his summer trip to 
Switzerland. 

You will notice in most of the photographs of 
glaciers black streaks along them, sometimes only 
near the sides, sometimes also in the centre. 
These are heaps of stones and earth which have 
fallen from the mountains bordering the glacier, 

and have been carried along by the slowly moving 

10 




S 

t 



II 






si 



s 




Js 

31 




A FEW WORDS ABOUT GLACIERS 

ice. The bands in the centre have come there, 
owing to the meeting higher up of two glaciers, 
which have joined their side heaps of rubbish, and 
have henceforward flowed on as one glacier. The 
bands of piled up stones are called moraines, those at 
the edge being known as lateral moraines, in the 
centre as medial moraines, and the stones which 
drop off the end (or snout) of a glacier, as terminal 
moraines. 

Besides these compact bands, we sometimes 
find here and there a big stone or boulder by itself, 
which has rolled on to the ice. Often these stones 
are raised on a pedestal of ice, and then they are 
called " glacier- tables." They have covered the 
bit of ice they lie upon, and prevented it from 
melting, while the glacier all round has gradually 
sunk. After a time the leg of the table begins to 
feel the sun strike it also. It melts away on the 
south side and the stone slips off. A party of 
climbers, wandering about on a glacier at night 
or in a fog, and having no compass, can roughly 
take their bearings by noticing in what position 
these broken-down glacier-tables lie. 

Occasionally sand has been washed down over the 
surface of the ice, and a patch of it has collected 

in one place. This shields the glacier from the 

ii 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

sun, the surrounding ice sinks, and eventually we 
find cones which are lightly covered with sand, the 
smooth ice beneath being reached directly we scratch 
the surface with the point of a stick. 

It is difficult to realise the enormous size of a 
large glacier. The Aletsch Glacier, the most exten- 
sive in the Alps, would, it has been said, if turned 
to stone, supply building material for a city the size 
of London. 

With regard to the movement of glaciers, the 
entertaining author of " A Tramp Abroad " mildly 
chaffs his readers by telling them that he once tried 
to turn a glacier to account as a means of trans- 
port. Accordingly, he took up his position in the 
middle, where the ice moves quickest, leaving his 
luggage at the edge, where it goes slowest. Thus 
he intended to travel by express, leaving his things 
to follow by goods train ! However, after some 
time, he appeared to make no progress, so he got 
out a book on glaciers to try and find out the reason 
for the delay. He was much surprised when he read 
that a glacier moves at about the same pace as the 
hour hand of a watch ! 

Many thousands of years ago there were glaciers 
in Scotland and England. We are certain of this, 

as glaciers scratch and polish the rocks they pass 

12 



A FEW WORDS ABOUT GLACIERS 

over as does nothing else. Stones are frozen into 
the ice, and it holds them and uses them as we 
might hold and use a sharply-pointed instrument, 
scratching the rock over which the mighty mass 
is slowly passing. In addition to the scratches, the 
ice polishes the rock till it is quite smooth, writing 
upon it in characters never to be effaced the history 
of past events. Another thing which proves to us 
that these icy rivers were in many places where 
there are no glaciers now, is the boulders we find 
scattered about. These boulders are sometimes of 
a kind of rock not found anywhere near, and so we 
know that they must have been carried along on 
that wonderful natural luggage-train, and dropped 
off it as it melted. We find big stones in North 
Wales which must have come on a glacier beginning 
in Scotland ! Glacier-polished rocks are found along 
the whole of the west coast of Norway, and there 
are boulders near Geneva, in Switzerland, which 
have come from the chain of Mount Blanc, 60 
miles away. 

So you see that the glaciers of the Alps are far 
smaller than they were at one time, and that in many 
places where formerly there were huge glaciers, 
there are to-day none. The Ice Age was the 

13 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

time when these great glaciers existed, but the 
subject of the Ice Age is a difficult and thorny 
one, which is outside the scope of my information 
and of this book. 



CHAPTER III 

AVALANCHES 

T\/rANY of the most terrible accidents in the 
Alps have been due to avalanches, and per- 
haps, as avalanches take place from different causes 
and have various characteristics, according to whether 
they are of ice, snow, or dtbris, some account of them 
may not be out of place. 

We may briefly classify them as follows : 

1. Ice avalanches, only met with on or near 

glaciers. 

2. Dust avalanches, composed of very light, 

powdery snow. 

3. Compact avalanches (Grund or ground ava- 

lanches, as the Germans call them), con- 
sisting of snow, earth, stones, trees, and 
anything which the avalanche finds in its 
path. These take place only in winter and 
spring, while the two other kinds happen on 
the mountains at any season. 
15 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

An ice avalanche is easily understood when it 
is borne in mind that a glacier is always moving. 
When this river of ice comes to the edge of a preci- 
pice, or tries to crawl down a very steep cliff, it 
splits across and forms tottering crags of ice, which 
lean over more and more till they lose their balance 
and go crashing down the slope. Some of the ice 
is crushed to powder by its fall, yet many blocks 
generally survive, and are occasionally heaped up 
in such huge masses below that they form another 
glacier on a small scale. If a party of mountaineers 
passes under a place overhung by threatening ice, 
they are in great danger, though at early morning, 
before the sun has loosened the frozen masses, the 
peril is less. Sometimes, too, if the distance to be 
traversed is very short and the going quite easy, it 
is safe enough to dash quickly across. 

Dust avalanches occur when a heavy fall of light, 
powdery snow takes place on frozen hillsides or 
ice-slopes, and so long as there is no wind or dis- 
turbance, all remains quiet, and inexperienced 
people would think there was no danger. But in 
reality dust avalanches are the most to be feared 
of any, for they fall irregularly in unexpected places, 
and their power is tremendous. While all seems 

calm and peaceful, suddenly a puff of wind or the 

16 




A TUNNEL 300 FEET LONG THROUGH AN AVALANCHE. 
Tree trunks, etc., can be seen embedded in it. 




A.N AVALANCHK NEAR BoUVERET, LAKE OF GlCNEVA. 



To face p. 17. 



AVALANCHES 

passage of an animal disturbs the delicately-balanced 
masses, and then woe betide whoever is within reach 
of this frightful engine of destruction. First, the 
snow begins to slide gently down, then it gathers 
pace and volume, and even miles away the thunder 
of its fall can be heard as it leaps from ledge to 
ledge. Covered with a cloud of smoking, powdery 
dust, it is a veritable Niagara of giant height, and 
as it descends towards the forests, it carries with it 
whatever it finds in its path. Trees are mown 
down with as much ease as the tender grass of 
spring. Houses are lifted from the ground and 
tossed far away. 

An avalanche is preceded by a blast even more 
destructive than the masses of snow which it hurls 
along. As it advances with ever-increasing rapidity 
the air in front is more and more compressed as the 
avalanche rushes on with lightning-like speed behind 
it. The wind sweeps everything before it, and many 
are the tales related by those who have survived or 
witnessed a display of its power. On one occasion more 
than a hundred houses were overwhelmed by a huge 
avalanche at Saas (Prattigau, near Davos), and during 
the search afterwards the rescue party found amidst 
the ruins a child lying asleep and uninjured in his 

cradle, which had been blown to some distance from 
B 17 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

his home, while close by stood a basket containing 
six eggs, none of which were broken. I have myself 
seen a row of telegraph posts in an Alpine valley in 
winter thrown flat on the ground by the air preceding 
an enormous avalanche, which itself did not come 
within 300 yards of them. It is a very wonderful 
thing that persons buried beneath an avalanche can 
sometimes hear every word spoken by a search party, 
and yet not a sound that they utter reaches the ears 
of those outside. A great deal of air is imprisoned 
between the particles of snow, and so it is possible 
for those overwhelmed by an avalanche to live inside 
it for hours. Cases have been known where a man, 
buried not far below the surface, has been able to 
melt a hole to the outer air with his breath, and 
eventually free himself from his icy prison. On 
1 8th January, 1885, enormous avalanches fell in 
some of the mountainous districts of northern Italy, 
houses, cattle, crops, and granaries being carried 
away, and many victims buried beneath the ruins. 
Some touching episodes of wonderful escapes were 
related. " For instance, at Riva, in the valley of Susa, 
a whole family, consisting of an old woman of seventy, 
her two daughters, her four nieces, and a child four 
months old, were buried with their house in the snow, 

exposed apparently to certain death from cold and 

IB 



AVALANCHES 

hunger. But the soldiers of the Compagnie Alpine, 
hearing of the sad case, worked with all their might 
and main to save them, and at last they were found 
and brought out alive, the brave old grandmother 
insisting that the children should be saved first, and 
then her daughters, saying that their lives were more 
precious than her own." The soldiers, who worked 
with a will above all praise, were obliged in several 
cases to construct long galleries in the snow in order 
to reach the villages, which were sometimes buried 
beneath 40 feet of snow. 

Compact avalanches, though very terrible on 
account of their frequently great size, can be more 
easily guarded against than dust avalanches, because 
they always fall in well-defined channels. A compact 
avalanche consists of snow, earth, stones, and trees, 
and comes down in times of thaw. Many fall in 
early spring in Alpine valleys, and though it is not 
unusual for them to come right across high roads, 
the fatal accidents are comparatively few. The 
inhabitants know that wherever, high up on the hills, 
there is a hollow which may serve as a reservoir or 
collecting-basin for the snow, and below this a funnel 
or shoot, there an avalanche may be expected. Often 
they take means to prevent one starting, for an 
avalanche, whose power is irresistible when once it has 

19 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

begun to move quickly, is very easily kept from 
mischief if it is not allowed a running start. The 
best of all ways for preventing avalanches is to plant 
the gullies with trees, but where this cannot be done, 
rows of stakes driven into the ground will serve to 
hold up the snow, and where the hillside is extremely 
steep, and much damage would be caused if an 
avalanche fell, stone walls are built one above another 
to keep the soil and the snow together, very much as 
we see on precipitous banks overlooking English 
railways. 

The driving roads over Alpine passes are in places 
exposed to avalanches in winter. At the worst spots 
galleries of stone are built, through which the sleighs 
can pass in perfect safety, and if an avalanche fell 
while they were inside it would pass harmlessly over 
their heads. On the Albula Pass, in Switzerland, as 
soon as the avalanches come down, tunnels are cut in 
the snow through them, and are in constant use till 
early summer. 

Occasionally houses or churches are built in the 
very path of an avalanche. A V-shaped wall, called 
an avalanche-breaker, is put behind, and this 
cuts the snowy stream in two parts, which passes on 
harmlessly on either side of the building. Some- 
times avalanche-breakers of snow, hardened into 

20 



AVALANCHES 

ice by throwing water over them, are con- 
structed behind barns which have been put in 
exposed places. 

In order that an avalanche may get up speed 
enough to commence its swift career, the slope the 
snow rests on where it starts must be at an angle of 
from 30^ to 35 at least. 



21 



CHAPTER IV 

THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS: WHAT THEY ARE 
AND WHAT THEY DO 



is no profession drawing its members 
from the peasant class which requires a com- 
bination of so many high and rare qualities as that 
of a mountain guide. Happily, the dwellers in hill 
countries seem usually more noble in mind and 
robust of frame than the inhabitants of plains, and 
all who know them well must admit that among 
Alpine guides are to be found men whose intelli- 
gence and character would rank high in any class 
of life. 

I have usually noticed that the abilities and 
duties of a guide are little understood by the non- 
climber, who often imagines that a guide's sole 
business is to know the way and to carry the 
various useless articles which the beginner in 
mountaineering insists on taking with him. 

Guiding, if it sometimes does include these duties, 

22 




EDOUARD CUPELIN OF CHAMOMX. 

The Guide with whom Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond commenced 
her climbing. 



To /ace p. 22. 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

is far more than this. The first-class guide must 
be the general of the little army setting out to 
invade the higher regions. He need not know 
the way in fact, it sometimes happens that he 
has never before visited the district but he must 
be able to find a way, and a safe one, to the 
summit of the peak for which his party is bound. 
An inferior guide may know, from habit, the usual 
way up a mountain, but, should the conditions of 
ice and snow alter, he is unable to alter with them 
and vary his route. You may ask : " How does a 
guide find his way on a mountain new to him?'* 
There are several means open to him. If the peak 
is well known, as is, say, the Matterhorn, he will 
have heard from other guides which routes have 
been followed, and will know that if he desires to 
take his traveller up the ordinary way he must go 
past the Schwarz-see Hotel, and on to the ridge 
which terminates in the Hornli, making for the 
hut which he has seen from below through the 
telescope. Then he remembers that he must cross 
to the east face, and while doing so he will notice 
the scratches on the rocks from the nailed boots 
of previous climbers. Now, mounting directly up- 
ward, he will pick out the passages which seem 
easiest, until, passing the ruined upper hut, he 

23 






TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

comes out on the ridge and looks down the tre- 
mendous precipice which overhangs the Matterhorn 
Glacier. This ridge, he knows, he simply has to 
follow until he reaches the foot of a steep face of 
rock some 50 feet high, down which hangs a chain. 
He has heard all about this bit of the climb since 
his boyhood, and he tells his traveller that, once 
on the top of the rock, all difficulty will be over, 
and the final slope to the summit will be found a 
gentle one. So it comes to pass that the party 
reaches the highest pinnacle of the great mountain 
without once diverging from the best route. Occasion- 
ally the leading guide may take with him as second 
guide a man from the locality, but most climbers 
will prefer to keep with them the two guides they 
are used to. 

It is not only on mountains that a guide is able 
to find his way over little known ground. Many 
years ago Melchior Anderegg came to stay with 
friends in England, and arrived at London Bridge 
Station in the midst of a thick London fog. " He 
was met by Mr Stephen and Mr Hinchliff," writes 
his biographer in The Pioneer of the Alps, "who 
accompanied him on foot to the rooms of the 
latter gentleman in Lincoln's Inn Fields. A day 

or two later the same party found themselves at 

24 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

the same station on their return from Woolwich. 
' Now, Melchior,' said Mr Hinchliff, ' you will lead 
us back home.' Instantly the skilful guide, who 
had never seen a larger town than Berne, accepted 
the situation, and found his way straight back 
without difficulty, pausing for consideration only 
once, as if to examine the landmarks at the foot 
of Chancery Lane." 

Now, let us see how a guide sets about exploring 
a district where no one has previously ascended 
the mountains. Of this work I have seen a good 
deal, since in Arctic Norway my Swiss guides 
and I have ascended more than twenty hitherto- 
unclimbed peaks, and were never once unable to 
reach the summit. Of course, the first thing is to 
see the mountains, and, to do this, it is wise to 
ascend something which you are sure, from its 
appearance, is easy, and then prospect for others, 
inspecting others again from them, and so on, 
ad infinitum. You cannot always see the whole 
of a route, and, perhaps, your leading guide will 
observe : " We can reach that upper glacier by the 
gully in the rocks." "What gully?" you ask. 
"The one to the left. There must be one there. 
Look at the heap of stones at the bottom!" 
Thus, from the seen to the unseen the guide argues, 

25 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

reading a fact from writing invisible to the un- 
trained eye. Between difficulty and danger, too^ 
he draws a sharp distinction, and attacks with full 
confidence a steep but firm wall of rock, turning 
back from the easy-looking slope of snow ready 
to set forth in an avalanche directly the foot 
touches it. 

And how is this proficiency obtained ? How does 
the guide learn his profession? 

In different ways, but he usually begins young, 
tending goats on steep grassy slopes requiring 
balance and nerve to move about over. Later on, 
having decided that he wishes to be a guide, the 
boy, at the age of seventeen or eighteen, offers him- 
self for examination on applying for a certificate 
as porter. The requirements for this first step are 
not great : a good character, a sound physique, a 
knowledge of reading and writing, and in most 
Alpine centres the guild of guides will grant him 
a license. He can now accompany any guide who 
will take him, on any expedition that guide con- 
siders within the porter's powers. His advancement 
depends on his capacity. Should he quickly adapt 
himself to the work, the guides will trust him more 
and more, taking him on difficult ascents and 

allowing him occasionally to share the responsi- 

26 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

bility of leading on an ascent and coming down 
last when descending. It will readily be seen that 
the leader must never slip, and must, when those 
who follow are moving, be able to hold them 
should anything go wrong with them. The same 
applies to the even more responsible position of 
last man coming down. When a porter reaches 
this stage, he is little inferior to a second guide. 
He can now enter for his final examination. If he 
is competent, he has no trouble in passing it, and 
I fear that if the contrary as is the case in many 
of those who apply he gets through easily enough. 
At Chamonix the guides' society is controlled by 
Government. The rules press hardly on the better 
class of guides there, or would do so if observed ; 
but a first-class guide is practically independent of 
them, and mountaineers who know the ropes can 
avoid the regulations. At Zermatt greater liberty 
is allowed, and, indeed, I believe that everywhere 
except at Chamonix a guide is free to go with any 
climber who applies for him. At Chamonix the 
rule is that the guides are employed in turn, so that 
the absurd spectacle is possible of a man of real 
experience carrying a lady's shawl across the Mer 
de Glace, while a guide, who is little better than a 

porter, sets out to climb the Aiguille de Dru ! How- 

27 



. 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

ever, the exceptions to this rule make a broad 
way of escape, for a lady alone, a member of an 
Alpine club, or a climber bent on a particularly 
difficult ascent, may choose a guide. 

The pay of a first-class guide is seldom by tariff, 
for the class of climber who alone would have the 
opportunity of securing the services of one of the 
extremely limited number of guides of the first 
order generally engages him for some weeks at a 
time. Indeed, such men are usually bespoken a 
year in advance. The pay offered and expected is 
25 fr. a day, including all expeditions, or else 10 fr. 
a day for rest days, 50 fr. for a peak, 25 fr. for a 
pass, in both cases the guide to keep himself, while 
travelling expenses and food on expeditions are 
to be paid for by the employer. If a season is 
fine and the party energetic, the former rate of 
payment may be the cheaper. The second guide 
generally receives two-thirds as much as the first 
guide. 

When a novice is about to choose a guide, 
the advice of an experienced friend is invaluable, 
but, failing this, it is worse than useless to rely 
on inn-keepers, casual travellers, or the guide-chef 
at the guides' office of the locality. From these 

you can obtain the names of guides whom they 

28 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

recommend, but before making any definite 
arrangements, see the men themselves and care- 
fully examine their books of certificates. In these 
latter lie your security, if you read them intelli- 
gently. Bear in mind that their value consists 
in their being signed by competent mountaineers. 
For instance, you may find something like the 
following in a guide's book: 

A. Dumkopf took me up the Matterhorn to-day. 
He showed wonderful sureness of foot and steadi- 
ness of head, and I consider him a first-class guide, 
and have pleasure in recommending him. 

(Signed) A. S. SMITH. 

Now, this is by some one you never heard of, and 
a very little consideration will show you that A. S. 
Smith is quite ignorant of climbing, judging by 
his wording of the certificate. That which follows, 
taken from the late Christian Aimer's Fuhrerbuch, 
is the sort of thmg to carry weight : 

Christian Aimer has been our guide for three 
weeks, during which time we made the ascents of 
the Matterhorn (ascending by the northern and 
descending by the southern route), Weisshorn (from 
the Bies Glacier), Dent Blanche, and the Bietschhorn. 
Every journey that we take under Aimer's guidance 
confirms us in the high opinion we have formed of 

29 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

his qualities as a guide and as a man. To the 
utmost daring and courage he unites prudence and 
foresight, seldom found in combination. 

(Signed) W. A. B. COOLIDGE. 
Visp, September 22nd, 1871. 

It is when things go badly that a first-class 
guide is so conspicuously above an inferior man. 
In sudden storms or fog you may, if accompanied 
by the former, be in security, while the latter may 
get his party into positions of great peril. The 
former will take you slowly and carefully, sounding, 
perhaps, at every step, over what appears to you 
a perfectly easy snow plateau. The latter goes 
across a similar place unsuspecting of harm and 
with the rope loose, and, lo and behold, you all 
find yourselves in a hidden crevasse, and are 
lucky if you escape with your lives. In the early 
days of mountaineering guides were frequently drawn 
from the chamois hunters of a district, a sport 
requiring, perhaps, rather the quickness and agility 
of the born climber and gymnast than the qualities 
of calculation and prudence needed in addition 
by the guide. 

The most thoroughly unorthodox beginning to 
a great career of which I have ever heard was 
that of Joseph Imboden, of St Nicholas. When 

30 




A careful party descending a Rock Peak near Zermatt (the Unter Gabdhorn). 



To face p. 31. 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

a boy his great desire, as he has often told me, 
was to become a guide. But his father would not 
consent to it, and apprenticed him to a boot- 
maker. During the time he toiled at manu- 
facturing and mending shoes he contrived to save 
2ofr. He then, at the age of sixteen, ran 
away from his employer, bought a note-book, 
and established himself at the RifTel Hotel above 
Zermatt. On every possible occasion he urged 
travellers to employ him as guide. 

" Where is your book, young man ? " they invari- 
ably enquired. 

He showed it to them, but the pages were 
blank, and so no one would take him. 

"At last," Imboden went on, "my 2ofr. were 
all but spent, when I managed to persuade a 
young Englishman to let me take him up Monte 
Rosa. I told him I knew the mountain well, and 
I would not charge him high. So we started. I 
had never set foot on a glacier before or on any 
mountain, but there was a good track up the snow, 
and I followed this, and there were other parties 
on Monte Rosa, so I copied what the guides did, 
and roped my gentleman as I saw the guides 
doing theirs. It was a lovely day, and we got on 

very well, and my gentleman was much pleased, 

31 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

and offered me an engagement to go to Chamonix 
with him over high passes. 

" Then I said to myself : ' Lies have been very 
useful till now, but the time has come to speak 
the truth, and I will do so.' 

" So I said to him : 'Herr, until to-day I have never 
climbed a mountain, but I am strong and active, 
and I have lived among mountaineers and moun- 
tains, and I am sure I can satisfy you if you will 
take me.' 

" He was quite ready to do so, and we crossed 
the Col du Gant and went up Mont Blanc, but 
could do no more as the weather was bad. Then 
he wrote a great deal in my book, and since then 
I have never been in want of a gentleman to 
guide." 

Imboden's eldest son, Roman, began still younger. 
When only thirteen he was employed by a member 
of the Alpine Club, Mr G. S. Barnes, to carry his 
lunch on the picnics he made with his friends on 
the glaciers near Saas-Fe*e. The party eventually 
undertook more ambitious expeditions, and one 
evening, Roman, who was very small for his age, 
was seen entering his native village at the head 
of a number of climbers who had crossed the Ried 
Pass, the little boy proudly carrying the largest 

32 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

knapsack of which he could possess himself, a huge 
coil of rope, and an ice-axe nearly as big as himself. 
Thus commenced the career of an afterwards famous 
Alpine guide. 

During some fifteen seasons Imboden accom- 
panied me on my climbs, frequently with Roman 
as second guide. Once the latter went with me 
to Dauphine, and, though only twenty-three at the 
time, took me up the Meije, Ecrins, and other big 
peaks, his father being detained at home by reason 
of a bitter feud with the railway company about to 
run a line through his farm. It is sad to look back 
to the terrible ending of Roman's career at a period 
when he was the best young guide in the Alps. 
How little, in September 1895, as with the Im- 
bodens, father and son, I stood on the summit of 
the Lyskamm, did any of us think that never 
again should we be together on a mountain, and 
that from the very peak on which we were Roman 
would be precipitated in one awful fall of hundreds 
of feet, his companions, Dr Guntner and the second 
guide Ruppen, also losing their lives. 

I shall never forget the evening the news reached 

us at Zermatt. Imboden was, as usual, my guide, 

but Roman was leading guide to Dr Guntner. A 

month or two previously this gentleman had written 

C 33 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

to Roman asking if he would climb with him. 
Roman showed the letter to his father, saying : 
" I only go with English people, so I shall refuse." 
" Do not reply in a hurry," was the answer ; " wait 
and see what the Herr is like, he is coming here 
soon." So Roman waited, saw Dr Guntner, liked 
him immensely, and engaged himself, not only till 
the end of the season, but also for a five months' 
mountaineering expedition in the Himalayas. We 
had all arrived at Zermatt from Fe*e a few days 
before, and while we waited in the valley for good 
weather, Dr Guntner, Roman Imboden, and Ruppen 
went to the Monte Rosa Hut to get some exercise 
next day on one of the easier peaks in the neigh- 
bourhood. Dr Guntner much wished to try the 
Lyskamm. Roman was against it, as the weather 
and snow were bad. However, in the morning 
there was a slight improvement, and as Dr Guntner 
was still most anxious to attempt the Lyskamm 
and Roman was so attached to him that he wished 
to oblige him in every way he could, he consented 
to, at any rate, go and look at it. Another party 
followed, feeling secure in the wake of such first- 
rate climbers, and, though the snow was atrocious 
and the weather grew worse and worse, no one 
turned back, and the summit was not far distant. 

34 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

The gentleman in the second party did not feel 
very well, and made a long halt on the lower part of 
the ridge. Something seems to have aroused his 
suspicions some drifting snow above, it was said, 
but I could never understand this part of the story 
and an accident was feared. Abandoning the ascent, 
partly because of illness, partly on account of the 
weather, the party went down. At the bottom of 
the ridge, wishing to see if indeed something had 
gone wrong, they bore over towards the Italian side 
of the mountain. Directly the snowy plain at the 
base of the peak became visible, their worst fears 
were confirmed, for they perceived three black 
specks lying close together. Examining them 
through their glasses, it was but too certain that 
what they saw were the lifeless bodies of Dr 
Gunnter, Roman, and Ruppen. 

Meanwhile, unconscious of the awful tragedy 
being enacted that day on the mountains, I had 
sent Imboden down to St Nicholas to see his 
family, and, after dinner, was sitting writing in 
the little salon of the Hotel Zermatt when two 
people entered, remarking to each other, " What a 
horrible smash on the Lyskamm ! " 

I started to my feet. Something told me it must 
be Roman's party. Crossing quickly over to the Monte 

35 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Rosa Hotel, I found a silent crowd gathering in 
the street. I went into the office. 

"Who is it?" I asked. 

" Roman's party," was the answer. 

" How do you know ? " 

" The other party has telephoned from the Riffel ; 
we wait for them to arrive to hear particulars." 

The crowd grew larger and larger in the dark 
without. All waited in cruel suspense. I could 
not bear to think of Imboden. 

An hour passed. Then there was a stir among 
the waiting throng, and I went out among them 
and waited too. 

The other party was coming. As the little band 
filed through the crowd, one question only was 
whispered. 

" Is there any hope ? " Sadly shaking their heads, 
the gentleman and his guides passed into Herr 
Seiler's room, and there we learned all there was 
to hear. 

I need not dwell on Imboden's grief. He will 
never be the same man again, though three more 
sons are left him ; but I must put on record his first 
words to me when I saw him : " Ruppen has left 
a young wife and several children, and they 
are very poor. Will you get up a subscription 

36 




STOPPED BY A BIG CREVASSE. 
The party descended a little till a better passage was found by crossing a snow-bridge (page 37). 




Till CI.NTI.K PEKSUASION OK THE Roi'E (page 39). 



To /ace p. 37. 



' 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

for them, ma'am, and help them as much as 
possible ? " 

It was done, and for Roman a tombstone was 
erected, " By his English friends, as a mark of their 
appreciation of his sterling qualities as a man and 
a guide." Roman was twenty-seven at the time 
of the accident. Neither Imboden nor I cared to 
face the sad associations of the Alps after the death 
of Roman, and the next and following years we 
mountaineered in Norway instead. 

It will have been noticed that a climber nearly 
always takes two guides on an expedition. A 
visitor at Zermatt, or some other climbing centre, 
was heard to enquire : " Why do people take two 
guides? Is it in case they lose one?" 

There are several reasons why a climbing party 
should not number less than three. In a difficult 
place, if one slips, his two companions should be 
able to check his fall immediately, whereas if the 
party number but two the risk of an accident is 
much greater. Again, a mishap to one of a party 
of two is infinitely more serious than had there 
been three climbing together. A glance at the 
accompanying photograph of some mountaineers 
reconnoitring a big crevasse will make my point 
clear. 

37 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

A first-class guide will use the rope very differently 
to an inferior man, who allows it to hang about in 
a tangle, and to catch on every point of projecting 
rock. 

A friend of mine, a Senior Wrangler, was extremely 
anxious to learn how to use a rope properly. So, 
instead of watching the method of his guide, he 
purchased a handbook, and learned by heart all the 
maxims therein contained on the subject. Shortly 
after these studies of his I was descending a steep 
face of rock in his company. I was in advance, 
and had gone down as far as the length of rope 
between us permitted. A few steps below was 
a commodious ledge, so I called out : " More rope, 
please ! " 

My friend hesitated, cleared his throat, and re- 
plied : " I am not sure if I ought to move just now, 
because, in Badminton^ on page so-and-so, line 
so-and-so, the writer says 

" Will you please give the lady more rope, sir ! " 
called out Imboden. 

" He says that if a climber finds himself in a 
position 

" Will you go on, sir, or must I come down and 
help you?" exclaimed Imboden from above, and, 
at last, reluctantly enough, my friend moved on. 

38 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

He is now a distinguished member of the Alpine 
Club, so there is, perhaps, something to be said in 
favour of learning mountaineering from precept 
rather than example ! 

Occasionally a guide's manipulation of the rope 
includes something more arduous than merely being 
always ready to stop a slip. If his traveller is tired 
and the snow slopes are long and wearisome, it may 
happen that a guide will put the rope over his 
shoulder and pull his gentleman. A mountaineer 
of my acquaintance met a couple ascending the 
Breithorn in this manner. It was a hot day, and 
the amateur was very weary. Furthermore, he 
could speak no German. So he entreated his com- 
patriot to intercede for him with the guide, who 
would insist on taking him up in spite of his 
groans of fatigue. 

"Why do you not return when the gentleman 
wishes it?" queried the stranger. 

" Sir," replied the guide, " he can go, he must go ; 
he has paid me in advance ! " 

The rope generally used by climbers is made in 
England, is known as Alpine Club rope, and may 
be recognised by the bright red thread which runs 
through the centre of it. A climber should have his 
own rope, and not trust to any of doubtful quality. 

39 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Should climbers desire to make ascents in seldom 
explored parts of the world, such as the Caucasus, the 
Andes, or the Himalayas, they must take Alpine 
guides with them, for mountains everywhere have 
many characteristics in common, and as a good rider 
will go over a country unknown to him better than a 
bad horseman to whom it is familiar, so will a skilful 
guide find perhaps an easy way up a mountain pre- 
viously unexplored, while the natives of the district 
declare the undertaking an impossible one. The 
Canadian Pacific Railway Company have recognised 
the truth of this, and have secured the services of 
Swiss guides for climbing in the Rockies. 

The devotion of a really trustworthy guide to his 
employer is a fine trait in his character. My guide, 
Joseph Imboden, has often told me that for years the 
idea that he might somehow return safe from an 
expedition during which his traveller was killed, was 
simply a nightmare to him. Directly the rope was 
removed his anxiety commenced, and he was just as 
careful to see that the climber did not slip in an easy 
place as he had been on the most difficult part of the 
ascent. It is an unbroken tradition that no St. 
Nicholas guide ever comes home without his em- 
ployer ; all return safely or all are killed. Alas ! the 

list of killed is a long one from that little Alpine 

40 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

village. In the churchyard, from the most recent 
grave, covered by the beautiful white marble stone 
placed there by Roman's English friends, to those 
recalling accidents a score or more of years ago, there 
lies the dust of many brave men. But I must not 
dwell on the gloom of the hills ; let me rather recall 
some of the many occasions when a guide, by his 
skill, quickness, or resource, has saved his own and his 
charges' lives. 

A famous Oberlander, Lauener by name, noted for 
his great strength, performed on one occasion a mar- 
vellous feat. He was ascending a steep ice slope, at 
the bottom of which was a precipice. He was alone 
with his " gentleman," and to this fact, usually by no 
means a desirable one, they both owed their lives. 
A big boulder seemed to be so deeply imbedded in 
the ice as to be actually part of the underlying rock. 
The traveller was just below it, the guide had cut 
steps alongside, and was above with, most happily, 
the rope taut. As he gained the level of the boulder 
he put his foot on it. To his horror it began to 
move ! He took one rapid step back, and with a 
superhuman effort positively swung his traveller clean 
out of the steps and dangled him against the slope 
while the rock, heeling slowly outwards, broke loose 
from its icy fetters and plunged down the mountain 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

side, right across the very place where the climber 
had been standing but an instant before. 

A small man, whose muscles are in perfect condi- 
tion, and who knows how to turn them to account, 
can accomplish what would really appear to be almost 
impossible for any one of his size. 

Ulrich Aimer, eldest son of the famous guide, the 
late Christian Aimer, saved an entire party on one 
occasion by his own unaided efforts. They were de- 
scending the Ober Gabelhorn, a high mountain near 
Zermatt, and had reached a ridge where there is 
usually a large cornice. Now, a cornice is an over- 
hanging eave of snow which has been formed by the 
wind blowing across a ridge. Sometimes cornices 
reach an enormous size, projecting 50 feet or more 
from the ridge. In climbing, presence of mind may 
avail much if a cornice breaks absence of body is, 
however, infinitely preferable. Even first-class guides 
may err in deciding whether a party is or is not at 
an absolutely safe distance from a cornice. Though 
not actually on that part of the curling wave of snow 
which overhangs a precipice, the party may be in 
danger, for when a cornice breaks away it usually 
takes with it part of the snow beyond. 

By some miscalculation the first people on the 

rope walked on to the cornice. It broke, and they 

42 










2 
S.a 



"3 




OF ~HE 

UNIVERSITY 





THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 



dropped straight down the precipice below. But at 
the same moment Ulrich saw and grasped the situa- 
tion, and, springing right out on the other side, was 
able to check them in their terrible fall. It was no- 
easy matter for the three men, one of whom had dis- 
located his shoulder, to regain the ridge, although 
held all the time by Ulrich. Still it was at length 
safely accomplished. The two gentlemen were so 
grateful to their guide that they wished to give him 
an acceptable present, and after much consideration 
decided that they could not do better than present 
him with a cow ! 

In trying to save a party which has fallen off a 
ridge, either by the breaking of a cornice or by a slip, 
I am told by first-rate guides that the proper thing to 
do is to jump straight out into the air on the opposite 
side. You thus bring a greater strain on the rope, 
and are more likely to check the pace at which your 
companions are sliding. I had a very awkward ex- 
perience myself on one occasion when, owing to the 
softness of the snow, we started an avalanche, and 
the last guide, failing to spring over on the other side, 
we were all carried off our feet. Luckily, we were 
able, by thrusting our axes through into a lower 
and harder layer of snow, to arrest our wild career. 

Piz Palii, in the Engadine, was once nearly the 
43 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

scene of a terrible tragedy through the breaking of 
a cornice, the party only being saved by the quick- 
ness and strength of one of their guides. The 
climbers consisted of Mrs Wainwright, her brother- 
in-law Dr B. Wainwright and the famous Pontresina 
guides Hans and Christian Grass. Bad weather 
overtook them during their ascent, and while they 
were passing along the ridge the fog was so thick that 
Hans Grass, who was leading, got on to the cornice. 
He was followed by the two travellers, and then with 
a mighty crack the cornice split asunder and preci- 
pitated them down the icy precipice seen to the 
right. Last on the rope came sturdy old Christian 
Grass, who grasped the awful situation in an instant, 
and sprang back. He held, but could, of course, do 
no more. Now was the critical time for the three 
hanging against the glassy wall. Both Hans and 
the lady had dropped their axes. Dr Wainwright 
alone retained his, and to this the party owed their 
lives. Of course he, hanging at the top, could do 
nothing ; but after shouting out his intentions to 
those below, he called on Hans to make ready to 
catch the axe when it should slip by him. A 
moment of awful suspense, and the weapon was 
grasped by the guide, who forthwith hewed a big 
step out of the ice, and, standing on it, began the 

44 





II 



1 
! 



J3 H 



f 



IJ 



THE GUIDES OF THE AfcPS 

toilsome work of constructing a staircase back to the 
ridge. At last it was done, and when the three lay 
panting on the snow above, it was seen that by that 
time one strand only of the rope had remained intact. 

The following account of a narrow escape from the 
result of a cornice breaking has an especially sad 
interest, for it was found amongst the papers of Lord 
Francis Douglas after his tragic death on the Matter- 
horn, and was addressed to the Editor of the Alpine 
Journal. The ascent described was made on 7th July 
1865, and the poor young man was killed on the I4th 
of the same month. 

The Gabelhorn is a fine peak, 1 3,365 feet high, in 
the Zermatt district. 

Lord Francis Douglas writes : " We arrived at 
the summit at 12.30. There we found that some one 
had been the day before, at least to a point very 
little below it, where they had built a cairn ; but they 
had not gone to the actual summit, as it was a peak 
of snow, and there were no marks of footsteps. On 
this peak we sat down to dine, when, all of a sudden, 
I felt myself go, and the whole top fell with a crash 
thousands of feet below, and I with it, as far as the 
rope allowed (some 12 feet). Here, like a flash of 
lightning, Taugwald came right by me some 12 
feet more ; but the other guide, who had only the 

45 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

minute before walked a few feet from the summit to 
pick up something, did not go down with the mass, 
and thus held us both. The weight on the rope 
must have been about 23 stone, and it is wonderful 
that, falling straight down without anything to break 
one's fall, it did not break too. Joseph Viennin then 
pulled us up, and we began the descent to Zermatt." 

Here, again, one of the guides saved the party 
from certain destruction. 

It is in time of emergency that a really first-rate 
guide is so far ahead of an inferior man. In many 
cases when fatal results have followed unexpected 
bad weather or exceptionally difficult conditions of 
a mountain, bad guiding is to blame, while the cases 
when able guides have brought down themselves and 
their employers from very tight places indeed, are 
far more frequent than have ever been related. 

A really wonderful example of a party brought 
safely home after terrible exposure is related in 
The Pioneers of the Alps. The well-known guides, 
Andreas Maurer and Emile Rey, with an English 
climber, had tried to reach the summit of the 
Aiguille du Plan by the steep ice slopes above the 
Chamonix Valley. " After step-cutting all day, they 
reached a point when to proceed was impossible, 
and retreat looked hopeless. To add to their diffi- 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

culties, bad weather came on, with snow and intense 
cold. There was nothing to be done but to remain 
where they were for the night, and, if they survived 
it, to attempt the descent of the almost precipitous 
ice-slopes they had with such difficulty ascended. 
They stood through the long hours of that bitter 
night, roped together, without daring to move, on a 
narrow ridge, hacked level with their ice-axes. I know 
from each member of the party that they looked 
upon their case as hopeless, but Maurer not only 
never repined, but affected rather to like the whole 
thing, and though his own back was frozen hard to 
the ice-wall against which he leaned, and in spite of 
driving snow and numbing cold, he opened coat, 
waistcoat and shirt, and through the long hours of 
the night he held, pressed against his bare chest, the 
half-frozen body of the traveller who had urged him 
to undertake the expedition. 

"The morning broke, still and clear, and at six 
o'clock, having thawed their stiffened limbs in the 
warm sun, they commenced the descent. Probably 
no finer feat in ice-work has ever been performed 
than that accomplished by Maurer and Rey on the 
roth August 1880. It took them ten hours of con- 
tinuous work to reach the rocks and safety, and 
their work was done without a scrap of food, after 

47 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

eighteen hours of incessant toil on the previous day, 
followed by a night of horrors such as few can 
realize." Had the bad weather continued, the party 
could not possibly have descended alive, " and this 
act of unselfish devotion would have remained 
unrecorded ! " 

Perhaps the most remarkable instance of endur- 
ance took place on the Croda Grande. The party 
consisted of Mr Oscar Schuster and the Primiero 
guide, Giuseppe Zecchini. They set out on i/th 
March 1900, from Gosaldo at 5.10 A.M., the weather 
becoming unsettled as they went along. After they 
had been seven hours on the march a storm arose, 
yet, as they were within three-quarters of an hour 
of the top of their peak, they did not like to turn 
back. They duly gained the summit, the storm 
momentarily increasing in violence, and then they 
descended on the other side of the mountain till 
they came to an overhanging rock giving a certain 
amount of shelter. The guide had torn his gloves 
to pieces during the ascent, and his fingers were raw 
and sore from the difficult icy rocks he had climbed. 
As the cold was intense, they now began to be very 
painful. The weather grew worse and worse, and 
the two unfortunate climbers were obliged to remain 
in a hole scooped out of the snow, not only during 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

the night of the I7th, but also during the whole 
day and night of the i8th. On the iQth, at 8 A.M., 
they made a start, not having tasted food for 
forty-eight hours. Five feet of snow had fallen, and 
the weather was still unsettled, but go they had 
to. First they tried to return as they came, but 
the masses of snow barred the way. They were 
delayed so long by the terrible state of the mountain 
that they had to spend another night out, and it 
was not till 6 P.M. on the 2Oth, after great danger 
that they reached Gosaldo. The guide, from whose 
account in The Alpine Journal I have borrowed, 
lost three fingers of his right hand and one of the 
left from frost-bite ; the traveller appears to have 
come off scot free. 



49 



CHAPTER V 
THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS (continued^. 

/ "T" A HE fathers of modern mountaineering were 
A undoubtedly the two great Oberland guides, 
Melchior Anderegg and Christian Aimer, who com- 
menced their careers more than half a century ago. 
The former is still with us, the latter passed away 
some two years ago, accomplishing with ease expe- 
ditions of first-rate importance till within a season 
or two of his death. Melchior began his climbing 
experiences when filling the humble duties of boots 
at the Grimsel Inn. He was sent to conduct 
parties to the glaciers, his master taking the fee, 
while Melchior's share was the pourboire. His apti- 
tude for mountain craft was soon remarked by the 
travellers whom he accompanied, and in a lucky 
hour for him and indeed for all concerned he 
was regularly taken into the employ of Mr Walker 
and his family. At that time Melchior could 
speak only a little German in addition to his Ober- 

50 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

land patois, and was quite unaccustomed to inter- 
course with English people. He was most anxious, 
however, to say the right thing, and thought he 
could not do better than copy the travellers, so 
Mr Walker was somewhat startled on finding him- 
self addressed as " Pa-pa," while his children were 
greeted respectively as " Lucy " and " Horace." 
The friendship between Melchior and the surviving 
members of Mr Walker's family has lasted ever 
since, and is worthy of all concerned. Melchior 
was born a guide, as he was born a gentleman, 
and no one who has had the pleasure of his ac- 
quaintance can fail to be impressed by his tact 
and wonderful sweetness of disposition, which have 
enabled him to work smoothly and satisfactorily 
with other guides, who might well have felt some 
jealousy at his career of unbroken success. 

Melchior's great rival and friend, Christian Aimer, 
was of a more impetuous disposition, but none the 
less a man to be respected and liked for his sturdy 
uprightness and devotion to his employers. The 
romantic tale of his ascent of the Wetterhorn, which 
first brought him into notice, has been admirably 
told by Chief-Justice Wills in his " Wanderings 
among the High Alps." Mr Wills, as he then 
was, had set out from Grindelwald to attempt the 

51 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

ascent of the hitherto unclimbed Wetterhorn. He 
had with him the guides Lauener, Bohren, and 
Balmat. The former, a giant in strength and 
height, had determined to mark the ascent in a 
way there should be no mistaking, so, seeking out 
the blacksmith, he had a " Flagge," as he termed 
it, prepared, and with this upon his back, he joined 
the rest of the party. The " Flagge " was a sheet 
of iron, 3 feet long and 2 broad, with rings to 
attach it to a bar of the same metal 10 or 12 feet 
high, which he carried in his hand. " He pointed 
first to the ' Flagge,' and then, with an exulting 
look on high, set up a shout of triumph which made 
the rocks ring again." 

The Wetterhorn is so well seen from Grindelwald 
that it was natural some jealousy should arise as to 
who should first gain the summit. At this time 
Christian Aimer was a chamois hunter, and his 
fine climbing abilities had been well trained in that 
difficult sport. He heard of the expedition, and 
took his measures accordingly. 

Meanwhile Mr Wills' party, having bivouacked on 
the mountain side, had advanced some way upwards 
towards their goal, and were taking a little rest. 
As they halted, "we were surprised," writes Mr 
Wills, " to behold two other figures, creeping along 

52 




THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

the dangerous ridge of rocks we had just passed. 
They were at some little distance from us, but we 
saw they were dressed in the guise of peasants." 

Lauener exclaimed that they must be chamois 
hunters, but a moment's reflection showed them 
that no chamois hunter would come that way, and 
immediately after they noticed that one of them 
"carried on his back a young fir-tree, branches, 
leaves, and all." This young man was Christian 
Aimer, and a fitting beginning it was to a great career. 

"We had turned aside to take our refresh- 
ment," continues Mr Wills, " and while we were so 
occupied they passed us, and on our setting forth 
again, we saw them on the snow slopes, a good way 
ahead, making all the haste they could, and evidently 
determined to be the first at the summit." 

The Chamonix guides were furious, declaring that 
no one at Chamonix would be capable of so mean an 
action, and threatening an attack if they met them 
The Swiss guides also began to see the enormity 
of the offence. "A great shouting now took place 
between the two parties, the result of which was 
that the piratical adventurers promised to wait for 
us on the rocks above, whither we arrived very soon 
after them. They turned out to be two chamois 
hunters, who had heard of our intended ascent, and 

53 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

resolved to be even with us, and plant their tree 
side by side with our ' Flagge.' They had started 
very early in the morning, had crept up the preci- 
pices above the upper glacier of Grindelwald before 
it was light, had seen us soon after daybreak, followed 
on our trail, and hunted us down. Balmat's anger 
was soon appeased when he found they owned the 
reasonableness of his desire that they should not 
steal from us the distinction of being the first to 
scale that awful peak, and instead of administering the 
fisticuffs he had talked about, he declared they were 
' bons enfants ' after all, and presented them with 
a cake of chocolate ; thus the pipe of peace was 
smoked, and tranquility reigned between the rival 
forces." 

The two parties now moved upwards together, 
and eventually reached the steep final slope of snow 
so familiar to all who have been up the Wetterhorn. 
They could not tell what was above it, but they 
hoped and thought it might be the top. 

At last, after cutting a passage through the cor- 
nice, which hung over the slope like the crest of a 
great wave about to break, Mr Wills stepped on 
to the ridge. His description is too thrilling to be 
omitted. "The instant before, I had been face to 
face with a blank wall of ice. One step, and the 

54 




CHRISTIAN ALMKK, 1894. 



To Jace p. 5-1. 



OFTHt 

UNIVERSITY 




THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

eye took in a boundless expanse of crag and glacier, 
peak and precipice, mountain and valley, lake and 
plain. The whole world seemed to lie at my feet. 
The next moment, I was almost appalled by the 
awfulness of our position. The side we had come 
up was steep ; but it was a gentle slope compared 
with that which now fell away from where I stood. 
A few yards of glittering ice at our feet, and then 
nothing between us and the green slopes of Grin- 
delwald, 9000 feet below. Balmat told me after- 
wards that it was the most awful and startling 
moment he had known in the course of his long 
mountain experience. We felt as in the immediate 
presence of Him who had reared this tremendous 
pinnacle, and beneath the '"majestical roof 'of whose 
blue heaven we stood poised, as it seemed, half- 
way beneath the earth and sky." 

Another notable ascent by Aimer of the Wetter- 
horn was made exactly thirty years later, when, 
with the youngest of his five sons (whom he was 
taking up for the first time) and an English 
climber he repeated as far as possible all the details 
of his first climb, the lad carrying a young fir-tree, 
as his father had done, to plant on the summit. 
Finally, in 1896, Aimer celebrated his golden 
wedding on the top of the mountain he knew so 

55 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

well. He was accompanied by his wife, and the 
sturdy old couple were guided by their sons. 

But all guides are not the Melchiors or the 
Aimers of their profession. Sometimes, bent on 
photography from the easier peaks, I have taken 
whoever was willing to come and carry the camera, 
and on one occasion had rather an amusing ex- 
perience with an indifferent specimen of the Pon- 
tresina Filhrerverein. All went well at first, and 
our large party, mostly of friends who knew nothing 
of climbing, trudged along quite happily till after 
our first halt for food. When we started again 
after breakfast our first adventure occurred. We 
had one first-class guide with us in the person of 
Martin Schocker, but were obliged to make up the 
number required for the gang by pressing several 
inferior men into our service. One of these was 
leading the first rope-full (if such an expression may 
be allowed), and with that wonderful capacity for 
discovering crevasses where they would be avoided 
by more skilful men, he walked on to what looked 
like a firm, level piece of snow, and in a second 
was gone ! The rope ran rapidly out as we flung 
ourselves into positions of security, and as we had 
kept our proper distances the check came on us 
all as on one. We remained as we were, while the 

56 



THE GUIDES OF THE ALPS 

second caravan advanced to our assistance. Its 
leading guide, held by the others, cautiously ap- 
proached the hole, and seeing that our man was 
dangling, took measures to haul him up. This was 
not very easy, as the rope had cut deeply into the 
soft snow at the edge ; but with so large a party 
there was no real difficulty in effecting a rescue. 
At last our guide appeared, very red in the face, 
puffing like a grampus, and minus his hat. As 
soon as he had regained breath he began to talk 
very fast indeed. It seemed that the crown of his 
hat was used by him for purposes similar to those 
served by the strong rooms and safes of the rich ; 
for in his head-gear he was in the habit of storing 
family documents of value, and among others packed 
away there was his marriage certificate! The hat 
now reposed at the bottom of a profound crevasse, 
and his lamentations were, in consequence, both loud 
and prolonged. I don't know what happened when 
he got home, but for the rest of the day he was a 
perfect nuisance to us all, explaining by voice and 
gesture, repeated at every halt, the terrifying ex- 
perience and incalculable loss he had suffered. 
Another unlucky result of his dive into the crevasse 
was its effect upon a lady member of the party, 
who had been induced, by much persuasion, to 

57 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

venture for the first time on a mountain. So 
startled was she by his sudden disappearance, that 
she jibbed determinedly at every crack in the glacier 
we had to cross, and, as they were many, our 
progress became slower and slower, and it was very 
late indeed before we regained the valley. 

Mr Clinton Dent, writing in The Alpine Journal, 
justly remarks : " Guides of the very first rank are 
still to be found, though they are rare ; yet there 
are, perhaps, as many of the first rank now as 
there have ever been. The demand is so pro- 
digiously great now that the second-class guide, 
or the young fully qualified guide who has made 
some little reputation for brilliancy, is often em- 
ployed as leader on work which may easily overtax 
his powers. There is no more pressing question 
at the present time in connection with mountain- 
eering, than the proper training of young guides." 



CHAPTER VI 

AN AVALANCHE ON THE HAUT-DE-CRY 



'T'^HE Haut-de-Cry is not one of the giants of the 
Alps. It is a peak of modest height but 
fine appearance, rising abruptly from the valley of 
the Rhone. In 1864 it had never been climbed 
in winter, and one of our countrymen, Mr Philip 
Gosset, set out in February of that year to attempt 
its ascent. He had with him a friend, Monsieur 
Boissonnet, the famous guide Bennen, and three 
men from a village, named Ardon, close by, who 
were to act as local guides or porters. 

The party had gained a considerable height on the 
mountain when it became necessary to cross a couloir 
or gully filled with snow. It was about 150 feet 
broad at the top, and 400 or 500 at the bottom. 
" Bennen did not seem to like the look of the snow 
very much," writes Mr Gosset in The Alpine Journal. 
" He asked the local guides whether avalanches ever 
came down this couloir, to which they answered that 

59 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

our position was perfectly safe. We were walking in 
the following order Bevard, Nance, Bennen, myself, 
Boissonnet, and Rebot. Having crossed over about 
three-quarters of the breadth of the couloir, the two 
leading men suddenly sank considerably above their 
waists. Bennen tightened the rope. The snow was 
too deep to think of getting out of the hole they had 
made, so they advanced one or two steps, dividing 
the snow with their bodies. Bennen turned round 
and told us he was afraid of starting an avalanche ; 
we asked whether it would not be better to return 
and cross the couloir higher up. To this the three 
Ardon men opposed themselves ; they mistook the 
proposed precaution for fear, and the two leading 
men continued their work. 

" After three or four steps gained in the aforesaid 
manner, the snow became hard again. Bennen had 
not moved he was evidently undecided what he 
should do. As soon, however, as he saw hard 
snow again, he advanced, and crossed parallel to, 
but above, the furrow the Ardon men had made. 
Strange to say, the snow supported him. While 
he was passing, I observed that the leader, Bevard, 
had ten or twelve feet of rope coiled round his 
shoulder. I of course at once told him to uncoil 

it, and get on to the arete, from which he was 

60 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE HAUT-DE-CRY 

not more than fifteen feet distant. Bennen then 
told me to follow. I tried his steps, but sank up 
to my waist in the very first. So I went through 
the furrows, holding my elbows close to my body, 
so as not to touch the sides. This furrow was 
about twelve feet long, and as the snow was good 
on the other side, we had all come to the false 
conclusion that the snow was accidentally softer 
there than elsewhere. Bennen advanced ; he had 
made but a few steps when we heard a deep, 
cutting sound. The snow-field split in two, about 
fourteen or fifteen feet above us. The cleft was at 
first quite narrow, not more than an inch broad. 
An awful silence ensued ; it lasted but a few seconds, 
and then it was broken by Bennen's voice, 'Wir 
sind alle verloren.' J His words were slow and 
solemn, and those who knew him felt what they 
really meant when spoken by such a man as 
Bennen. They were his last words. I drove my 
alpenstock into the snow, and brought the weight 
of my body to bear on it. I then waited. It was 
an awful moment of suspense. I turned my head 
towards Bennen to see whether he had done the 
same thing. To my astonishment I saw him turn 
round, face the valley, and stretch out both arms. 

'"We are all lost." 
61 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

The ground on which we stood began to move 
slowly, and I felt the utter uselessness of any 
alpenstock. I soon sank up to my shoulders, and 
began descending backwards. From this moment 
I saw nothing of what had happened to the rest 
of the party. With a good deal of trouble I 
succeeded in turning round. The speed of the 
avalanche increased rapidly, and before long I 
was covered up with snow. I was suffocating, 
when I suddenly came to the surface again. I 
was on a wave of the avalanche, and saw it before 
me as I was carried down. It was the most awful 
sight I ever saw. The head of the avalanche 
was already at the spot where we had made our 
last halt. The head alone was preceded by a thick 
cloud of snow-dust ; the rest of the avalanche was 
clear. Around me I heard the horrid hissing of 
the snow, and far before me the thundering of 
the foremost part of the avalanche. To prevent 
myself sinking again, I made use of my arms, 
much in the same way as when swimming in a 
standing position. At last I noticed that I was 
moving slower; then I saw the pieces of snow in 
front of me stop at some yards distant ; then the 
snow straight before me stopped, and I heard on a 

large scale the same creaking sound that is 

62 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE HAUT-DE-CRY 

produced when a heavy cart passes over frozen 
snow in winter. I felt that I also had stopped, 
and instantly threw up both arms to protect my 
head, in case I should again be covered up. I 
had stopped, but the snow behind me was still in 
motion ; its pressure on my body was so strong 
that I thought I should be crushed to death. This 
tremendous pressure lasted but a short time; I 
was covered up by snow coming from behind me. 
My first impulse was to try and uncover my 
head but this I could not do, the avalanche had 
frozen by pressure the moment it stopped, and 
I was frozen in. Whilst trying vainly to move 
my arms, I suddenly became aware that the hands 
as far as the wrist had the faculty of motion. 
The conclusion was easy, they must be above the 
snow. I set to work as well as I could ; it was 
time for I could not have held out much longer. 
At last I saw a faint glimmer of light. The 
crust above my head was getting thinner, but I 
could not reach it any more with my hands ; the idea 
struck me that I might pierce it with my breath. 
After several efforts I succeeded in doing so, and 
felt suddenly a rush of air towards my mouth, I saw 
the sky again through a little round hole. A dead 
silence reigned around me ; I was so surprised to be 

63 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

still alive, and so persuaded at the first moment that 
none of my fellow-sufferers had survived, that I did not 
even think of shouting for them. I then made vain 
efforts to extricate my arms, but found it impos- 
sible ; the most I could do was to join the ends 
of my fingers, but they could not reach the snow 
any longer. After a few minutes I heard a man 
shouting ; what a relief it was to know that I was 
not the sole survivor ! to know that perhaps he was 
not frozen in and could come to my assistance! I 
answered ; the voice approached, but seemed un- 
certain where to go, and yet it was now quite near. 
A sudden exclamation of surprise ! Rebot had 
seen my hands. He cleared my head in an instant, 
and was about to try and cut me out completely, 
when I saw a foot above the snow, and so near to 
me that I could touch it with my arms, although 
they were not quite free yet. I at once tried to 
move the foot ; it was my poor friend's. A pang 
of agony shot through me as I saw that the foot 
did not move. Poor Boissonnet had lost sensation, 
and was perhaps already dead. 

" Rebot did his best. After some time he wished 
me to help him, so he freed my arms a little more, so 
that I could make use of them. I could do but little, 
for Rebot had torn the axe from my shoulder as 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE HAUT-DE-CRY 

soon as he had cleared my head (I generally carry an 
axe separate from my alpenstock the blade tied to 
the belt, and the handle attached to the left shoulder). 
Before coming to me Rebot had helped Nance out of 
the snow ; he was lying nearly horizontally, and was 
not much covered over. Nance found Bevard, who 
was upright in the snow, but covered up to the head. 
After about twenty minutes, the two last-named guides 
came up. I was at length taken out ; the snow had 
to be cut with the axe down to my feet before I 
could be pulled out. A few minutes after i P.M. we 
came to my poor friend's face. ... I wished the 
body to be taken out completely, but nothing could 
induce the three guides to work any longer, from the 
moment they saw it was too late to save him. I 
acknowledge that they were nearly as incapable of 
doing anything as I was. When I was taken out of 
the snow the cord had to be cut. We tried the end 
going towards Bennen, but could not move it ; it 
went nearly straight down, and showed us that there 
was the grave of the bravest guide the Valais ever had 
or ever will have." 

Thus ends one of the most magnificent descriptions 
of an avalanche which has ever been written. The 
cause of the accident was a mistaken opinion as to 

the state of winter snow, which is very different to 
E 65 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the snow met with in summer, and of which at that 
time the best guides had no experience. 

A RACE FOR LIFE 

Once upon a time, in the year 1872, a certain 
famous mountaineer, Mr F. F. Tuckett, had with his 
party a desperate race for life. The climbers numbered 
five in all, three travellers and two guides, and had 
started from the Wengern Alp to ascend the Eiger. 
Nowadays there is a railway to the Wengern Alp, 
and so thousands of English people are familiar with 
the appearance of the magnificent group of moun- 
tains the Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau 
which they have before them as they pass along in 
the train. Suffice it here to say that the way up the 
Eiger lies over a glacier, partly fed by another high 
above it, from which, through a narrow, rocky gully, 
great masses of ice now and again come dashing 
down. Unless the fall is a very big one, climbers 
skirting along the edge of this glacier are safe enough, 
but on the only occasion I have been up the Eiger, I 
did not fancy this part of the journey. 

To return to Mr Tuckett and his friends. They 
were advancing up the snowy valley below the 
funnel-shaped opening through which an avalanche 

occasionally falls. The guide, Ulrich Lauener, was 

66 




A RACE FOR LIFE 

leading, and, remarks Mr Tuckett, " He is a little 
hard of hearing ; and although his sight, which had 
become very feeble in 1870, is greatly improved, both 
ear and eye were perhaps less quick to detect any 
unexpected sound or movement than might other- 
wise have been the case. Be this as it may, when all 
of a sudden I heard a sort of crack somewhere up 
aloft, I believe that, for an instant or two, his was 
the only head not turned upwards in the direction 
from which it seemed to proceed, viz., the hanging 
ice-cliff ; but the next moment, when a huge mass of 
se>ac broke away, mingled apparently with a still 
larger contingent of snow from the slopes above, 
whose descent may, indeed, have caused, or at least 
hastened, the disruption of the glacier, every eye was 
on the look-out, though as yet there was no indica- 
tion on the part of any one, nor I believe any thought 
for one or two seconds more, that we were going to 
be treated to anything beyond a tolerably near view 
of such an avalanche as it rarely falls to anyone's lot 
to see. Down came the mighty cataract, filling the 
couloir to its brim ; but it was not until it had tra- 
versed a distance of 600 to 800 feet, and on suddenly 
dashing in a cloud of frozen spray over one of the 
principal rocky ridges with which, as I have said, 
the continuity of the snow-slope was broken, appeared 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

as if by magic to triple its width, that the idea of 
danger to ourselves flashed upon me. I now per- 
ceived that its volume was enormously greater than 
I had at first imagined, and that, with the tremen- 
dous momentum it had by this time acquired, it 
might, instead of descending on the right between us 
and the rocks of the Klein Eiger, dash completely 
across the base of the Eiger itself in front of us, 
attain the foot of the Rothstock ridge, and then, 
trending round, sweep the whole surface of the 
glacier, ourselves included, with the besom of de- 
struction. 

" I instinctively bolted for the rocks of the Roth- 
stock if haply it might not be too late yelling 
rather than shouting to the others, * Run for your 
lives ! ' 

" Ulrich was the last to take the alarm, though 
the nearest to the danger, and was thus eight or ten 
paces behind the rest of us, though he, too, shouted to 
Whitwell to run for his life directly he became aware 
of the situation. But by this time we were all strain- 
ing desperately through the deep, soft snow for dear 
life, yet with faces turned upwards to watch the swift 
on-coming of the foe. I remember being struck with 
the idea that it seemed as though, sure of its prey, it 

wished to play with us for a while, at one moment 

68 



A RACE FOR LIFE 

letting us imagine that we had gained upon it, and 
were getting beyond the line of its fire, and the next, 
with mere wantonness of vindictive power, suddenly 
rolling out on its right a vast volume of grinding 
blocks and whirling snow, as though to show that it 
could out-flank us at any moment it chose. 

" Nearer and nearer it came, its front like a mighty 
wave about to break, yet that still * on the curl hangs 
poising ' ; now it has traversed the whole width of the 
glacier above us, taking a somewhat diagonal direc- 
tion ; and now run, oh, run ! if ever you did, for here 
it comes straight at us, still outflanking us, swift, 
deadly, and implacable ! The next instant we saw 
no more ; a wild confusion of whirling snow and 
fragments of ice a frozen cloud swept over us, 
entirely concealing us from one another, and still we 
were untouched at least I knew that I was and 
still we raw. Another half second and the mist had 
passed, and there lay the body of the monster, whose 
head was still careering away at lightning speed far 
below us, motionless, rigid, and harmless. It will 
naturally be supposed that the race was one which 
had not admitted of being accurately timed by the 
performers ; but I believe that I am speaking with 
precision when I say that I do not think the whole 
thing occupied from first to last more than five or six 

69 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

seconds. How narrow our escape was may be 
inferred from the fact that the spot where I halted 
for a moment to look back after it had passed, was 
found to be just twelve yards from its edge, and I don't 
think that in all we had had time to put more than 
thirty yards between us and the point where our wild 
rush for the rocks first began. Ulrich's momentary 
lagging all but cost him his life ; for in spite of his 
giant stride and desperate exertions he only just 
contrived to fling himself forwards as the edge of the 
frozen torrent dashed past him. This may sound 
like exaggeration, but he assured me that he felt 
some fragments strike his legs ; and it will perhaps 
appear less improbable when it is considered that he 
was certainly several yards in the rear, and when the 
avalanche came to a standstill, its edge, intersecting 
and concealing our tracks along a sharply defined 
line, rose rigid and perpendicular, like a wall of 
cyclopean masonry, as the old Bible pictures repre- 
sent the waters of the Red Sea, standing ' upright as 
an heap ' to let the Israelites through. 

"The avalanche itself consisted of a mixture, in 
tolerably equal proportions, of blocks of se>ac of all 
shapes and sizes, up to irregular cubes of four or five 
feet on a size, and snow thoroughly saturated with 

water the most dangerous of all descriptions to 

70 



A RACE FOR LIFE 

encounter, as its weight is enormous. We found that 
it covered the valley for a length of about 3300 feet, 
and a maximum breadth of 1500, tailing off above and 
below to $00 or 1000 feet. Had our position on the 
slope been a few hundred feet higher or lower, or in 
other words, had we been five minutes earlier or later, 
we must have been caught beyond all chance of 
escape." 

There was no rashness which can be blamed in the 
party finding themselves in the position described. 
Avalanches, when they fall down the gully, hardly 
ever come so far as the one met with on this occasion, 
and they very seldom fall at all in the early morning. 
The famous guide, Christian Aimer, while engaged 
on another expedition, visited the spot after the 
avalanche had fallen, and said that it was the mightiest 
he had ever seen in his life. Mr Tuckett roughly 
estimated its total weight as about 450,000 tons. 



CHAPTER VII 

CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE ON THE MATTERHORN 

/ Hp v HE following exciting account is taken from an 
article by Herr Lorria, which appeared in The 
St Moritz Post for 28th January 1888. The injuries 
received were so terrible that, I believe, Herr Lorria 
never entirely ceased to feel their effects. 

The party consisted of two Austrian gentlemen, 
Herren Lammer and Lorria, without guides, who, in 
1887, had made Zermatt their headquarters for 
some climbs. They had difficulty in deciding which 
ascent to begin with, especially as the weather had 
recently been bad, and the peaks were not in first- 
class condition. Herr Lorria writes : 

" I fancied the Pointe de Zinal as the object of our 
tour; but Lammer, who had never been on the 
Matterhorn, wished to climb this mountain by the 
western flank a route which had only once before 
been attacked, namely by Mr Penhall. We had 
with us the drawing of Penhall's route, published in 

The Alpine Journal. 

72 



CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE 

"After skirting a jutting cliff, we reached the 
couloir at its narrowest point. It was clear that 
we had followed the route laid down in The Alpine 
Journal ; and although Mr Penhall says that the 
rocks here are very easy, I cannot at all agree with 
him. 

" We could not simply cross over the couloir, for, 
on the opposite side, the rocks looked horrible: it 
was only possible to cross it some forty or fifty metres 
higher. We climbed down into the couloir : the ice 
was furrowed by avalanches. We were obliged to 
cut steps as we mounted upwards in a sloping direc- 
tion. In a quarter of an hour we were on the other 
side of the couloir. The impression which the couloir 
made upon me is best shown by the words which I 
at the moment addressed to Lammer : ' We are now 
completely cut off.' We saw clearly that it was 
only the early hour, before the sun was yet upon the 
couloir, which protected us from danger. Once more 
upon the rocks, we kept our course as much as pos- 
sible parallel to the N.W. arete. We clambered 
along, first over rocks covered with ice, then over 
glassy ledges, always sloping downwards. Our pro- 
gress was slow indeed ; the formation of the rock sur- 
face was ever becoming more unfavourable, and the 
covering of ice was a fearful hindrance. 

73 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Such difficult rocks I had rarely seen before ; 
the wrinkled ledges of the Dent Blanche were easy 
compared to them. At i P.M., we were standing on 
a level with the " Grand Tower " ; the summit lay 
close before us, but as far as we could see, the rocks 
were completely coated with a treacherous layer of 
ice. Immediately before us was a precipitous ice 
couloir. All attempts to advance were fruitless, 
even our crampons were of no avail. Driven back ! 
If this, in all cases, is a heavy blow for the mountain 
climber, we had here, in addition, the danger which 
we knew so well, and which was every moment 
increasing. It was one o'clock in the afternoon ; 
the rays of the sun already struck the western wall 
of the mountain ; stone after stone, loosened from its 
icy fetters, whistled past us. Back ! As fast as 
possible back ! Lammer pulled off his shoes and 
I stuffed them into the knapsack, holding also our 
two ice-axes. As I clambered down the first I was 
often obliged to trust to the rope. The ledges, 
which had given us trouble in the ascent, were 
now fearfully difficult. Across a short ice slope, in 
which we had cut steps in the ascent, Lammer was 
obliged, as time pressed, to get along without his 
shoes. The difficulties increased ; every moment 
the danger became greater; and already whole 

74 



CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE 

avalanches of stones rattled down. The situation 
was indeed critical. At last, after immense diffi- 
culty, we reached the edge of the couloir at the 
place we had left it in the ascent. But we could 
find no spot protected from the stones ; they 
literally came down upon us like hail. Which 
was the more serious danger, the threatening 
avalanches in the couloir or the pelting of the 
stones which swept down from every side? On 
the far side of the couloir there was safety, as all 
the stones must in the end reach the couloir, which 
divides the whole face of the mountain into two 
parts. It was now five o'clock in the afternoon ; 
the burning rays of the sun came down upon us, 
and countless stones whirled through the air. We 
remembered the saying of Dr Giissfeldt, in his 
magnificent description of the passage of the Col 
du Lion, that only at midnight is tranquility 
restored. We resolved, then, to risk the short 
stretch across the couloir. Lammer pulled on his 
shoes ; I was the first to leave the rocks. The 
snow which covered the ice was suspiciously soft, 
but we had no need to cut steps. In the avalanche 
track before us on the right a mighty avalanche is 
thundering down ; stones leap into the couloir, and 
give rise to new avalanches. 

75 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Suddenly my consciousness is extinguished, and 
I do not recover it till twenty-one days later. I 
can, therefore, only tell what Lammer saw. Gently 
from above an avalanche of snow came sliding 
down upon us ; it carried Lammer away in spite 
of his efforts, and it projected me with my head 
against a rock. Lammer was blinded by the 
powdery snow, and thought that his last hour was 
come. The thunder of the roaring avalanche was 
fearful ; we were dashed over rocks, laid bare in 
the avalanche track, and leaped over two immense 
bergschrunds. At every change of the slope we flew 
into the air, and then were plunged again into the 
snow, and often dashed against one another. For 
a long time it seemed to Lammer as if all were over, 
countless thoughts went thronging through his brain, 
until at last the avalanche had expended its force, 
and we were left lying on the Tiefenmatten Glacier. 
Our fall was estimated at from 550 to 800 English 
feet. 

" I lay unconscious, quite buried in the snow ; 
the rope had gone twice round my neck and bound 
it fast. Lammer, who quickly recovered con- 
sciousness, pulled me out of the snow, cut the 
rope, and gave me a good shake. I then awoke, but 

being delirious, I resisted with all my might my 

76 



CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE 

friend's endeavours to pull me out of the track of 
the avalanche. However, he succeeded in getting 
me on to a stone (I was, of course, unable to walk), 
and gave me his coat ; and having thus done all 
that was possible for me, he began to creep down- 
wards on hands and knees. He could not stand, 
having a badly sprained ankle; except for that he 
escaped with merely a few bruises and scratches. 
At length Lammer arrived at the Stockje hut, but 
to his intense disappointment there was nobody 
there. He did not pause to give vent to his annoy- 
ance, however, but continued his way down. Twice 
he felt nearly unable to proceed, and would have 
abandoned himself to his fate had not the thought 
of me kept him up and urged him on. At three 
o'clock in the morning he reached the Staffel Alp, 
but none of the people there were willing to venture 
on the glacier. He now gave up all hope that I 
could be saved, though he nevertheless sent a mes- 
senger to Herr Seiler, who reached Zermatt at 
about 4.15 A.M. 

" In half an hour's time a relief party set out from 
Zermatt. When the party reached the Staffel Alp, 
Lammer was unconscious, but most fortunately he 
had written on a piece of paper the information 
that I was lying at the foot of Penhall's couloir. 

77 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

They found me about half- past eight o'clock. 
I had taken off all my clothes in my delirium, 
and had slipped off the rock on which Lammer 
had left me. One of my feet was broken and both 
were frozen into the snow, and had to be cut out 
with an axe. 

"At 8 P.M. I was brought back to Zermatt, and 
for twenty days I lay unconscious at the Monte 
Rosa Hotel hovering between life and death." 

Herr Lorria pays a warm tribute to the kind- 
ness of Seiler and his wife, and the skill of Dr de 
Courten, who saved his limbs when other doctors 
wished to amputate them. He ends his graphic 
account as follows : " The lesson to be learnt from 
our accident is not ' Always take guides,' but rather 
' Never try the Penhall route on the Matterhorn, 
except after a long series of fine, hot days, for other- 
wise the western wall of the mountain is the most 
fearful mouse-trap in the Alps.'" 

THE ICE AVALANCHE OF THE ALTELS. 

Those who climbed in the Alps during the summer 
of 1895 will recollect how wonderfully dry and warm 
the weather was, denuding the mountains of snow 
and causing a number of rock- falls, so that many 

78 



THE ICE AVALANCHE OF THE ALTELS 

ascents became very dangerous, and, in my own 
case, after one or two risky encounters with falling 
stones, we decided to let the rock peaks alone for 
the rest of that campaign. 

In The Alpine Journal of August 1897, Mr Charles 
Slater gives an admirable description of a great ice- 
avalanche which overwhelmed one of the fertile pas- 
tures near the well-known Gemmi route. From this 
account I make some extracts, which will give an 
idea of the magnitude of the disaster and its unusual 
character, as the ice from a falling glacier rarely ever 
approaches cultivated land and dwellings. 

The scene of the catastrophe was at Spitalmatten, 
a pasturage with chalets used in summer by the 
shepherds, in a basin at the beginning of the valley 
which extends to the pass. Steep slopes bound it 
on the east, and above them rises the glacier-capped 
peak of the Altels. The glacier was well seen from 
the Gemmi path, and all tourists who passed that 
way must have noticed and admired it. It is be- 
lieved that a big crevasse, running right across the 
glacier, was noticed during the month of August, and 
the lower part of the glacier seemed to be completely 
cut off from the upper portion by it. 

On the evening of loth September, the Vice- 
President of the commune of Leuk (to which com- 

79 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

mune the Alp belonged) arrived at the chalets to 
settle the accounts of the past summer. Several of 
the women had already gone down, taking some of 
the calves with them, and the rest of the inhabitants 
of the little settlement were to follow next day. 
The weather was warm but cloudy, with a strong 
fohn wind. 1 

On the morning of nth September, about 5 A.M., 
the few people who lived at or near the Schwaren- 
bach Inn heard a roar like an earthquake, and felt 
a violent blast of wind. A servant, rushing out of the 
inn, saw " what appeared to be a white mist stream- 
ing down the AltePs slope. The huge mass of ice 
forming the lower end of the glacier had broken 
away, rushed down the mountain side, leapt from 
the Tateleu plateau into the valley, and, like an 
immense wave, had swept over the Alp, up the 
Uschinen Grat, as if up a 1500 sea-wall, and 

1 The exact origin of the fohn wind is still disputed. It is 
thought to have no connection with the sirocco, a wind which 
in Europe blows always from the south, bears with it some- 
times particles of sand, and is impregnated with damp from its 
passage over the Mediterranean. The fohn blows from any 
quarter (though usually from the south), and is a dry, warm 
wind, which causes the snow to melt rapidly. In German 
Switzerland it is called the Schneefresser, or Snow Devourer, 
and it has been said that if no fohn visited the Alps, Switzer- 
land would still be in the glacial period. 

80 



THE ICE AVALANCHE OF THE ALTELS 

even sent its ice- foam over this into the distant 
Uschinen Thai." 

The only other eye-witness of this appalling catas- 
trophe was a traveller who was walking up the 
Kanderthal from Frutigen in the early morning. 
" He saw in the Gemmi direction a fearful whirl- 
wind, with dust and snow-clouds, and experienced 
later a cold rain falling from a clear sky, the rain 
being probably due to the melting of the ice-cloud." 

The scene after the disaster must have been a 
terrible one. "Winter had apparently come in the 
midst of summer " ; the whole pasture was covered 
with masses of ice. " The body of the Vice- President 
was found lying 180 yards away from the hut. 
Another body had been flung into the branches of 
an uprooted tree, while a third was found still 
holding a stocking in one hand, having been killed 
in the act of dressing." 

There was no chance of escape for the people, as 
only a minute or little more elapsed from the time 
the avalanche started till it reached the settlement. 
The cows were nearly all killed, " they seem to have 
been blown like leaves before a storm to enormous 
distances." 

A year later, much of the avalanche was still un- 

melted. 

F 81 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

The thickness of the slice of glacier which broke 
away is believed to have been about 25 feet, and it 
fell through a vertical height of 4700 feet. It moved 
at about the average rate of two miles a minute. 

" It is difficult to realise these vast figures, and a 
few comparisons have been suggested which may 
help to give some idea of the forces which were 
called into play. The material which fell would 
have sufficed to bury the City of London to the 
depth of six feet, and Hyde Park and Kensington 
Gardens would have disappeared beneath a layer 
six-and-a-half feet deep. The enormous energy of 
the moving mass may be dimly pictured when we 
think that a weight of ice and stones ten times 
greater than the tonnage of the whole of England's 
battle-ships plunged on to the Alp at a speed of 
nearly 300 miles an hour." 

An almost exactly similar accident had occurred in 
1782. 



AN AVALANCHE WHICH ROBBED A LADY OF 
A GARMENT 

One of the greatest advantages in mountaineer- 
ing as a sport is the amount of enjoyment it gives 

even when climbing-days are past. While actually 

82 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE SCHALLIHORN 

engaged in the ascent of difficult peaks our minds 
are apt to be entirely engrossed with the problem 
of getting up and down them, but afterwards we 
delight in recalling every interesting passage, every 
glorious view, every successful climb ; and perhaps 
this gives us even more pleasure than the experi- 
ences themselves. 

If we happen to have combined photography with 
mountaineering we are particularly to be envied, for 
an hour in the company of one of our old albums 
will recall with wonderful vividness many an incident 
which we should have otherwise forgotten. 

Turning over some prints which long have lain 
on one side, a wave of recollection brings before 
me some especially happy days on snowy peaks, 
and makes me long to bring a breath of Alpine 
air to the cities, where for so much of the year dwell 
many of my brother and sister climbers. 

With the help of the accompanying photographs, 
which will serve to generally illustrate my remarks, 
let me relate what befell me during an ascent of 
the Schallihorn a peak some twelve thousand and 
odd feet high, in the neighbourhood of Zermatt. 

Now, although Zermatt is a very familiar play- 
ground for mountaineers, yet even as late as ten 
years ago one or two virgin peaks and a fair 



I 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

number of new and undesirable routes up others 
were still to be found. I had had my share 
of success on the former, and was at the time of 
which I write looking about for an interesting and 
moderately safe way, hitherto untrodden, up one of 
the lesser-known mountains in the district. My 
guide and my friend of many years, Joseph 
Imboden, racked his brains for a suitable novelty, 
and at length suggested that as no one had 
hitherto attacked the south-east face of the Schalli- 
horn we might as well see if it could be ascended. 
He added that he was not at all sure if it was 
possible a remark I have known him to make on 
more than one peak in far away Arctic Norway, 
when the obvious facility of an ascent had robbed 
it of half its interest. However, in those days I 
still rose satisfactorily to observations of that sort, 
and was at once all eagerness to set out. We 
were fortunate in securing as our second guide 
Imboden's brilliant son Roman, who happened 
to be disengaged just then. A further and little 
dreamed-of honour was in store for us, as on our 
endeavouring to hire a porter to take our things 
to the bivouac from the tiny village of Taesch 
no less a person than the mayor volunteered to 
accompany us in that capacity. 

84 




MK. WHVMI>KK. ZKK.MATT, 1896. 




MRS. AI-HREY LE BLOND ON A MOUNTAIN Tor. 

Photographed by her Guide, Joseph Imloden 







A HOT DAY IN M ,,, -\VIMKK OJJ TIIK SUMMIT OK A PKAK 13,000 I-KKT in ;:.. 
Jo face p. 85. 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE SCHALLIHORN 

So we started upwards one hot afternoon, bound 
for some overhanging rocks, which, we were assured 
by those who had never visited the spot, we should 
find. For the regulation routes up the chief peaks 
the climber can generally count on a hut, where, 
packed in close proximity to his neighbours, he lies 
awake till it is time to get up, and sets forth on his 
ascent benefited only in imagination by his night's 
repose. Within certain limits the less a man is 
catered for the more comfortable he is, and the 
more he has to count on himself the better are the 
arrangements for his comfort. Thus I have found 
a well-planned bivouac under a great rock infinitely 
preferable to a night in a hut, and a summer's 
campaign in tents amongst unexplored mountains 
more really luxurious than a season in an over- 
thronged Alpine hotel. 

Two or three hours' walking took us far above 
the trees and into the region of short grass and 
stony slopes. Eventually we reached a hollow at the 
very foot of our mountain, and here we began to 
look about for suitable shelter and a flat surface on 
which to lay the sleeping-bags. The pictured rocks 
of inviting appearance were nowhere to be found, 
and what there were offered very inferior accom- 
modation. But the weather was perfect, and we had 

85 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

an ample supply of wraps, so we contented ourselves 
with what protection was given by a steep, rocky 
wall, and turned our attention to the Schallihorn. 
The proposed route could be well seen. Imboden 
traced out the way he intended taking for a long 
distance up the mighty precipice in front of us. 
There were tracks of avalanches at more than one 
spot, and signs of falling stones were not infrequent. 
My guide thought he could avoid all danger by 
persistently keeping to the projecting ridges, and 
his idea was to descend by whatever way we went 
up, as the ordinary route is merely a long, unin- 
teresting grind. 

We now lit a fire, made soup and coffee, and soon 
after got into our sleeping-bags. The night passed 
peacefully, save for the rumble of an occasional 
avalanche, when great masses of ice broke loose on 
the glacier hard by. Before dawn we were stirring, 
and by the weird light of a huge fire were making 
our preparations for departure. It gradually grew 
light as our little party moved in single file towards 
the rocky ramparts which threatened to bar the way 
to the upper world. As we ascended a stony slope, 
Imboden remarked, " Why, ma'am, you still have on 
that long skirt ! Let us leave it here ; we can pick 

it up on our return." Now, in order not to be 

86 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE SCHALLIHORN 

conspicuous when starting for a climbing expedi- 
tion, I always wore an ordinary walking-skirt over 
my mountaineering costume. It was of the lightest 
possible material, so that, if returning by a different 
route, it could be rolled up and carried in a knapsack. 
I generally started from the bivouac without it ; but 
the presence on this occasion of the Mayor of Tasch 
had quite overawed me ; hence the unusual elegance 
of my get-up. Lest I be thought to dwell at undue 
length on so trifling a matter, I may add that the 
skirt had adventures that day of so remarkable a 
nature that the disappearance of Elijah in his chariot 
can alone be compared to them. 

The skirt was now duly removed, rolled up and 
placed under a heavy stone, which we marked with 
a small cairn, so as to find it the more easily on our 
return. Shortly after, the real climb began, and, 
putting on the rope, we commenced the varied 
series of gymnastics which make life worth living 
to the mountaineer. We had several particularly un- 
pleasant gullies to cross, up which Imboden glanced 
hastily and suspiciously, and hurried us over, fearing 
the fall of stones. At length we came for a little 
time to easier ground, and as the day was now 
intensely hot the men took off their waiscoats, leav- 
ing them and their watches in a hole in the rock. 

87 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Above this gentler slope the mountain steepened 
again, and a ridge in the centre, running directly 
upwards, alone gave a possible route to the summit. 
This ridge, at first broad and simple, before long 
narrowed to a knife-edge. There was always enough 
to hold ; but the rocks were so loose and rotten that 
we hardly dared to touch them. Spread out over 
those treacherous rocks, adhering by every finger 
in our endeavour to distribute our weight, we slowly 
wormed ourselves upwards. Such situations are 
always trying. The most brilliant cragsman finds 
his skill of little avail. Unceasing care and patience 
alone can help him here. Throwing down the most 
insecure of the blocks, which fell sometimes on 
one side, sometimes on the other of the ridge, we 
gradually advanced. The conversation ran rather 
in a groove : " Not that one, ma'am, or the big 
fellow on the top will come down ! " " Don't touch 
the red one or the little white one ! " " Now come up 
to where I am without stepping on any of them ! n 
" Roman ! look out ! I'm letting this one go ! " 
Then bang ! bang ! bang ! and a disgusting smell 
as of gunpowder, while a great boulder dashed in 
leaps towards the glacier below, grinding and 
smashing itself to atoms before it reached the 

bottom. 

88 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE SCHALLIHORN 

Thus with untiring thoroughness Imboden led his 
little band higher and higher, till at last the summit 
came in sight and our muscles and overstrained 
nerves saw rest ahead. 

I readily agreed to Imboden's decision that we 
should go down the ordinary way. 

After descending for a considerable distance we 
stopped, and the guides held a short consultation 
It seemed that Roman was anxious to try and fetch 
the waistcoats and watches and my skirt, and his 
father did not object. 

Wishing him the best of good-luck, we parted by 
the rocks and trudged on over the snow towards 
Zermatt. We moved leisurely, as people who climb 
for pleasure, with no thought of record-breaking ; and 
as it was late in September it was dusk as we neared 
the village. 

Later in the evening I saw Imboden, and asked for 
news of Roman. He had not arrived, and as time 
passed we grew uneasy, knowing the speed at which, 
if alone, he would descend. By 10 P.M. we were 
really anxious, and great was our relief when a figure 
with knapsack and ice-axe came swinging up the 
narrow, cobbled street. 

It was an exciting tale he had to tell, though it 
took a good deal of danger to impress Roman with 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the notion that there was any at all. Soon after 
leaving us he came to the first gully. Just as he 
was about to step into it he heard a rumble. Springing 
back, he squeezed himself under an overhanging piece 
of rock, while a huge mass of stones and snow dashed 
down the mountain, some of the fragments passing 
right over him though, thanks to his position, none 
actually touched him. When tranquility was restored 
he dashed across to the other side, and immediately 
after a fresh fall commenced, which lasted for a con- 
siderable time. At length he approached without 
injury the spot he was looking for, far down on the 
lower slopes, where my skirt had been left, and here he 
felt that all danger was past. But the extraordinarily 
dry season had thrown out most people's calcula- 
tions, and at that very moment he was really in the 
direst peril. As he ran gaily down the slope of earth 
and stones a tremendous crash brought him to a 
standstill, and looking back he saw the smoke of a 
mighty avalanche of ice coming in a huge wave over 
the cliffs above. He rushed for shelter, which was 
near at hand, and from beneath the protection of a 
great rock he saw the avalanche come on and on 
with the roar of artillery, and he gazed, fascinated, 
as it swept majestically past his place of refuge. He 
could see the mound where lay my skirt with its 

90 



AN AVALANCHE ON THE SCHALLIHORN 

heap of stones. And now a striking sight met his 
eyes, for before ever the seething mass could touch 
it the whole heap rose from the ground and was 
carried far out of the path of the avalanche, borne 
along by the violence of the wind which preceded 
it. 

The late John Addington Symonds has related in 
one of his charming accounts of winter in the Alps 
that an old woman, sitting peaceably before her 
chalet door in the sun, was transported by the wind 
of an avalanche to the top of a lofty pine-tree, where, 
quite uninjured, she calmly awaited assistance ; but 
that my skirt should have such an adventure brought 
very strongly home to me the dangers Roman had 
passed through that afternoon and the escape we had 
had ourselves. 



CHAPTER VIII 

LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

T T was in 1786 that the summit of Mont Blanc was 
reached for the first time. It had been attained on 
only eleven occasions, and no accidents had happened 
on it when, in 1820, the catastrophe since known as 
the Hamel accident, took place. 

Dr Joseph Hamel was a Russian savant, and Coun- 
sellor of State to the Czar. He much desired to 
ascend Mont Blanc in order that he might make 
scientific experiments on the top, and in August 
1820, he came to Chamonix for the purpose. It is 
of no use, and of little interest to general readers, if 
I enter into particulars of the controversy which this 
expedition excited. Some declared that Dr Hamel 
urged his guides to proceed against their better 
judgment. Others say that the whole party which 
included two Englishmen and nine guides were 
anxious to continue the ascent, and, indeed, saw no 

reason for doing otherwise. Certain it is, however 

92 





MONT BLANC. 

The black line shows the probable course the bodies took 
during their 40 years' descent in the ice. 

Ey a local Photographer. 



Nicolas Winhart, escaping on this occasion with his lif 

afterwards perished on the Col des Grands Montets i 

^75 (page 99). 

By a local Photographe 





A Banker at Geneva, who was a most active searcher for 

Henry Ark Wright's body. He was killed in a duel in 1869. 

It is interesting to compare the old-fashioned costume with 

that of the present day climber. 

By a local Photographer. 
To face p. 92 



THE RELICS. 

The rope was found round the body but worn through i 
two places by the hip bones. The handkerchief, shirt froi 
with studs, prune stones, watch chain, pencil case, cartridg 
spike of alpenstock, coins, glove tied with spare bootlac 
etc., all belonged to Henry Arkwright. 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

that in those days no one was a judge of the con- 
dition of snow, and able to tell from its consistency 
if an avalanche were likely or not. 

The party, which at first numbered fourteen, duly 
reached the rocks of the Grands Mulcts, where it 
was usual to spend the night. The sky clouded over 
towards evening, and there was a heavy thunder- 
storm during the night. Next morning the weather 
was too unsettled for the ascent to be tried, so a 
couple of guides were sent down to Chamonix for 
more provisions, and a second night was spent in camp. 
Early next morning, in beautiful weather, a start was 
made, one of the members of the party, Monsieur 
Selligne, who felt ill, and two guides leaving the 
others and going down to Chamonix. The rest safely 
reached the Grand Plateau. The snow, hardened by 
the night's frost, had thus far supported the weight 
of the climbers and made their task easy. It was, 
however, far from consolidated beneath the crust, as 
the warm wind of the previous days had made it 
thoroughly rotten. 

All were in excellent spirits during the halt for 
breakfast on the Grand Plateau, that snowy valley 
which is spread out below the steeper slopes of the 
final mass of the mountain. Dr Hamel employed 

93 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

part of his time in writing a couple of notes an- 
nouncing his arrival on the top of Mont Blanc 
leaving a blank on each to insert the hour. These 
notes he intended to despatch by carrier pigeon, 
the bird being with them, imprisoned in a large 
kettle. 

At 10.30 they reached the foot of what is now 
known as the Ancien Passage. This is a steep 
snow-slope leading almost directly to the top of 
Mont Blanc. When the snow is sound, and the ice 
above does not overhang much, this route is as safe 
as any other ; but a steep slope covered with a layer 
of rotten snow is always most dangerous. At that 
time, the Ancien Passage was the only way ever 
taken up Mont Blanc. 

They had ascended a considerable distance, the 
snow being softer and softer as they rose, and they 
formed a long line one behind the other, not mount- 
ing straight up, but making their way rather across 
the slope. Six guides walked at the head of the 
troop, and then, after an interval, the two English- 
men and two more guides, Dr Hamel being last. 

All seemed to be going excellently. Everyone 
plodded along, and rejoiced to be so near the cul- 
minating point of the expedition. No thought of 
danger disturbed them. 

94 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

Suddenly there was a dull, harsh sound. Imme- 
diately the entire surface of the snow began to move. 
" My God ! The avalanche ! We are lost ! " shrieked 
the guides. The slope at Dr Hamel's end of the 
party was not steep, barely more than 30 but up 
above it was more rapid. The leading guides were 
carried straightway off their feet. Hamel was also 
swept away by the gathering mass of snow. Using 
his arms as if swimming, he managed to bring his 
head to the surface, and as he did so the moving 
snow slowed down and stopped. In those few 
moments, some 1200 feet had been descended. At 
first Dr Hamel thought that he alone had been 
carried away, but presently he saw his English friends 
and their guides no more. 

"Where are the others?" cried Dr Hamel. 
Balmat, who a moment before had let his brother 
pass on to the head of the party, wrung his hands 
and answered, "The others are in the crevasse!" 
The crevasse! Strange that all had forgotten 
it ! The avalanche had poured into it, filling it 
to the brim. 

"A terrible panic set in. The guides lost all 
self-control. Some walked about aimlessly, uttering 
loud cries. Matthieu Balmat sat in sullen silence, 
rejecting all kind offices with an irritation which 

95 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

made it painful to approach him. Dornford threw 
himself on the snow in despair, and Henderson, 
says Hamel, 'was in a condition which made one 
fear for the consequences.' A few minutes later 
two other guides extricated themselves, but the 
remaining three were seen no more. Hamel and 
Henderson descended into the crevasse, and made 
every possible attempt to find the lost guides, but 
without avail ; the surviving guides forced them 
to come out, and sore at heart they returned to 
Chamonix. 

"The three guides who were lost were Pierre 
Carrier, Pierre Balmat, and Auguste Tairraz. They 
were the three foremost in the line and felt the 
first effects of the avalanche. Matthieu Balmat, 
who was fourth in the line, saved himself by 
his great personal strength and by presence of 
mind. Julien DeVouassoud was hurled across the 
crevasse, and Joseph Marie Couttet was dragged 
out senseless by his companions, 'nearly black 
from the weight of snow which had fallen upon 
him.' " * 

Scientific men had already begun to give 
attention to the movement of glaciers. In addition 
to this, cases had occurred where the remains of 

1 The Annals of Mont Blanc, by C. E. Mathews. 
96 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

persons lost on glaciers had been recovered years 
afterwards. A travelling seller of hats, crossing 
the Tschingel Glacier on his way from the Bernese 
Oberland to Valais, had fallen into a crevasse. 
Eventually his body and his stock of merchandise 
was found at the end of the glacier. Near the 
Grimsel, the remains of a child were discovered in 
the ice. An old man remembered that many 
years before a little boy had disappeared in that 
locality and must doubtless have been lost in a 
crevasse. These facts were probably known to 
Dr Hamel, and he made the remark that perhaps 
in a thousand years, the bodies of his guides 
might be found. Forbes, who knew more of the 
subject, believed that, travelling in the ice, they 
would reach the end of the glacier in forty 
years. 

He was right, for on I5th August 1861, his "bold 
prediction was verified, and the ice give up its 
dead." On that day, the guide, Ambrose Simond, 
who happened to be with some tourists on the lower 
part of the Glacier des Bossons, discovered some 
pieces of clothing and human bones. From that 
time until 1864 the glacier did not cease to render 
up, piece by piece, the remains and the belongings 

of the three victims. 

G 97 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

An accident, very similar to that which befell Dr 
Hamel's party, took place in 1866. This has for me a 
very special interest, as I have met the brother of the 
Englishman who perished, and have examined all the 
documents, letters, newspaper cuttings, and photo- 
graphs relating to the catastrophe. The guide, 
Sylvain Couttet, an old friend of mine, since dead, 
has given a moving account of the sad event. 
Sylvain knew Mont Blanc better than any other 
native of Chamonix, and though when I knew him he 
had given up guiding, he desired to add one more 
ascent of the great white peak to his record, for at that 
time he had been up ninety-nine times. I accordingly 
invited him to come with my party when we climbed 
it from the Italian side. He did so he had never 
been up that way before and I well remember how 
he slipped himself free of the rope after the last rocks, 
saying, "Ah, you young people, you go on. The 
old man will follow." Alone he arrived on the top, 
strode about over its snowy dome as if to say good- 
bye, and was just as ready for his work as any of us 
when, in a stiff gale, we descended the ridge of the 
Bosses. 

But to return to what is known as the Arkwright 
accident. 

In the year 1866, Henry Arkwright, a young man 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

of twenty-nine, aide-de-camp to the Lord-Lieutenant 
of Ireland, was travelling in Switzerland with his 
mother and two sisters. Writing from Geneva on 
3rd September to a member of his family, he said, 
" We have ventured to try our luck higher up, as the 
weather is so warm and settled as otherwise I should 
leave Switzerland without seeing a glacier." On what 
an apparent chance a run of fine weather do great 
issues depend ! 

The party shortly afterwards moved on to 
Chamonix, where many excursions were made, 
thanks to the beautiful weather which still continued. 
It had now become quite the fashion to go up Mont 
Blanc, so one is not surprised that Henry Arkwright, 
though no climber, decided to make the attempt. 
One of his sisters went with him as far as the hut at 
the Grands Mulcts, and they were accompanied by the 
guide Michael Simond, and the porters Joseph and 
Fran9ois Tournier. Another party proposed also to 
go up. It consisted of two persons only, Sylvain 
Couttet and an employe of the Hotel Royal named 
Nicolas Winhart, whom Sylvain had promised to 
conduct to the top when he had time and opportunity. 
It was the I2th October when they left Chamonix, 
and all went well across the crevassed Glacier des 
Bossons, and they duly reached their night quarters. 

99 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

While the climbers were absent next day, Miss 
Fanny Arkwright employed herself with writing and 
finishing a sketch for her brother. 

Meanwhile the two parties, having set out at an 
early hour, advanced quickly up the snow-slopes. 
The days were short, and it was desirable to take 
the most direct route. For years the Ancien 
Passage had been abandoned, and the more circuitous 
way by the Corridor used instead. However, the 
snow was in good order, and as up to then no acci- 
dents had happened through falling ice, this danger 
was little dreaded, though it is sometimes a very 
real one in the Ancien Passage. So the guides 
advised that this should be the way chosen, and both 
parties directed their steps accordingly. Sylvain 
Couttet has left a remarkable description of the 
events which followed, and portions of this I now 
translate from his own words as they appeared in 
The Alpine Journal. 

The two parties were together at the beginning of 
the steep snow-slope. Sylvain's narrative here com- 
mences : " I said to the porter, Joseph Tournier, who 
had thus far been making the tracks, * Let us pass on 
ahead ; you have worked long enough. To each of 
us his share ! ' It was to this kindly thought for my 

comrade that, without the slightest doubt, Winhart 

100 . 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

and I owe our salvation ! We had been walking for 
about ten minutes near some very threatening seracs 
when a crack was heard above us a little to the right. 
Without reasoning, I instinctively cried, * Walk 
quickly ! ' and I rushed forwards, while someone 
behind me exclaimed, ' Not in that direction ! ' 

" I heard nothing more ; the wind of the avalanche 
caught me and carried me away in its furious descent. 
4 Lie down ! ' I called, and at the same moment I 
desperately drove my stick into the harder snow 
beneath, and crouched down on hands and knees, my 
head bent and turned towards the hurricane. I felt 
the blocks of ice passing over my back, particles of 
snow were swept against my face, and I was deafened 
by a terrible cracking sound like thunder. 

"It was only after eight or ten minutes that the 
air began to clear, and then, always clinging to my 
axe, I perceived Winhart 6 feet below me, with 
the point of his stick firmly planted in the ice. The 
rope by which we were tied to each other was 
intact. I saw nothing beyond Winhart except the 
remains of the cloud of snow and a chaos of ice- 
blocks spread over an area of about 600 
feet. 

" I called out at the top of my voice no answer 

I became like a madman, I burst out crying, I began 

101 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

to call out again always the same silence the 
silence of death. 

" I pulled out my axe, I untied the rope which 
joined us, and both of us, with what energy re- 
mained to us, with our brains on fire and our hearts 
oppressed with grief, commenced to explore in every 
direction the enormous mountain of shattered ice- 
blocks which lay below us. Finally, about 150 feet 
further down I saw a knapsack then a man. It was 
Franois Tournier, his face terribly mutilated, and 
his skull smashed in by a piece of ice. The cord had 
been broken between Tournier and the man next 
to him. We continued our search in the neighbour- 
hood of his body, but after two hours' work could find 
nothing more. It was vain to make further efforts ! 
Nothing was visible amongst the masses of debris^ 
as big as houses, and we had no tools except my 
axe and Winhart's stick. We drew the body of 
poor Tournier after us as far as the Grand Plateau, 
and with what strength remained to us we de- 
scended as fast as we could towards the hut at 
the Grands Mulcts, where a terrible ordeal awaited 
me the announcement of the catastrophe to Miss 
Arkwright. 

" The poor child was sitting quietly occupied with 
her sketching. 

102 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

" ' Well, Sylvain ! ' she cried on seeing me, ' All has 
gone well ? ' 

" * Not altogether, Mademoiselle,' I replied, not 
knowing how to begin. 

" Mademoiselle looked at me, noticed my bent head 
and my eyes full of tears she rose, came towards me 
* What is the matter ? Tell me all ! ' 

" I could only answer, ' Have courage, Mademoiselle/ 

" She understood me. The brave young girl knelt 
down and prayed for a few moments, and then got 
up pale, calm, dry-eyed. * Now you can tell me 
everything,' she said, ' I am ready.' 



" She insisted on accompanying me at once to 
Chamonix, where she, in her turn, would have to 
break the sad tidings to her mother and sister. 

" At the foot of the mountain the sister of Made- 
moiselle met us, happy and smiling. 

"Do not ask me any more details of that awful 
day, I have not the strength to tell them to you." 

Thirty-one years passed, when, in 1897, Colonel 
Arkwright, a brother of Henry Arkwright's, re- 
ceived the following telegram from the Mayor of 
Chamonix : 

103 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

"Restes Henry Arkvvright peri Mont Blanc 1866 
retrouves." 

Once more the glacier had given up its dead, and 
during these thirty-one years the body of Henry 
Arkwright had descended 9000 feet in the ice and 
had been rendered back to his family at the foot of 
the glacier. 

The remains of the Englishman were buried at 
Chamonix, and perhaps never has so pathetic a ser- 
vice been held there as that which consigned to the 
earth what was left of him who thirty-one years 
before had been snatched away in the mighty grip 
of the avalanche. 

Many belongings of the lost one's came by degrees 
to light. A pocket-handkerchief was intact, and on 
it as well as on his shirt-front, Henry Arkwright's 
name and that of his regiment written in marking- 
ink were legible. Though the shirt was torn to 
pieces, yet two of the studs and the collar-stud 
were still in the button-holes and uninjured. The 
gold pencil-case (I have handled it), opened and 
shut as smoothly as it had ever done, and on the 
watch-chain there was not a scratch. A pair of gloves 
were tied together with a boot-lace which his sister 
remembered taking from her own boot so that he 

might have a spare one, and coins, a used cart- 

104 



LOST IN THE ICE FOR FORTY YEARS 

ridge, and various other odds and ends, were all 
recovered from the ice. 

The remains of the guides had been found and 
brought down soon after the accident, but that of 
Henry Arkwright had been buried too deeply to 
be discovered. 

In connection with the preservation of bodies in 
ice the following extract from The Daily Telegraph 
for roth May 1902 is of great interest. It is 
headed : 

MAMMOTH 8000 YEARS OLD 

Reuter's representative has had an interview with 
Mr J. Talbot Clifton, who has lately returned from 
an expedition in Northern Siberia, undertaken for the 
purpose of discovering new species of animals. 

Mr Clifton gives the following account of the Herz 
mammoth, which he saw on his arrival at Irkutsk. 
41 It is," he said, " about the size of an elephant, which 
it resembles somewhat in form. It possesses a trunk, 
has five toes instead of four, and is a heavy beast. It 
is supposed to have lived about 8000 years ago. Its 
age was probably not more than twenty-six years 
very young for a mammoth. Its flesh was quite com- 
plete, except for a few pieces which had been bitten 
at by wolves or bears. Most of the hair on the body 
had been scraped away by ice, but its mane and near 
foreleg were in perfect preservation and covered with 

105 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

long hair. The hair of the mane was from 4 in. to 
5 in. long, and of a yellowish brown colour, while its 
left leg was covered with black hair. In its stomach 
was found a quantity of undigested food, and on its 
tongue was the herbage which it had been eating 
when it died. This was quite green." 



106 



CHAPTER IX 

THE MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL ALPINE TRAGEDIES 

' V HERE is no great mountain in the Alps so 
easy to ascend as Mont Blanc. There is 
not one on which there has been such a deplor- 
able loss of life. The very facility with which 
Mont Blanc can be climbed has tempted hundreds 
of persons totally unused to and unfitted for moun- 
taineering to go up it, while the tariff for the guides 
4 each has called into existence a crowd of in- 
capable and inexperienced men who are naturally 
unable, when the need for it arrives, to face con- 
ditions that masters of craft would have avoided 
by timely retreat. 

The great danger of Mont Blanc is its enormous 
size, and to be lost on its slopes in a snow-storm 
which may continue for days is an experience 
few have survived. On a rocky mountain there 
are landmarks which are of the utmost value in 
time of fog, but when all is snow and the tracks 

107 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

are obliterated as soon as made, can we wonder 
if the results have been disastrous when a poorly 
equipped party has encountered bad weather? 

Of all the sad accidents which have happened 
on Mont Blanc, none exceeds in pathos that in 
which Messrs Bean, M'Corkindale, Randall, and 
eight guides perished. None of these gentlemen 
had any experience of mountaineering. Stimulated 
rather than deterred by the account given by two 
climbers who had just come down from the moun- 
tain, and had had a narrow escape owing to bad 
weather, these three men, with their guides, who 
were "probably about the worst who were then 
on the Chamonix roll," set out for the Grands 
Mulcts. The weather was doubtful, nevertheless 
the next morning they started upwards, leaving 
their only compass at their night quarters. 

During the whole of that 6th of September the 
big telescope at the Chalet of Plan-Praz above 
Chamonix was fixed on their route, but they could 
only be seen from time to time, as the mountain 
was constantly hidden by driving clouds. At 
last they were observed close to the rocks known 
as the Petits Mulcts not far below the summit. 
It was then a quarter past two o'clock. There 

was a terrific wind, and the snow was whirled in 

108 









MOST TERRIBLE OF ALPINE TRAGEDIES 

clouds. The party could be seen lying down on 
the ground, to avoid being swept away by the 
hurricane. 

The Chamonix guide, Sylvain Couttet, had gone 
to the chalet of Pierre- Pointue, where the riding 
path ends, to await the return of the climbers. 
On the morning of the /th, as there was still no 
sign of them, Sylvain became uneasy, and mount- 
ing to an eminence not far off, from which he 
could see nearly all the route to the Grands Mulcts, 
he carefully searched for tracks with the aid of 
his telescope. Snow had fallen during the night, 
yet there was no trace of footsteps. Seriously 
alarmed, Sylvain hurried back to Pierre-Pointue, 
sent a man who was there to Chamonix in order 
that a search party might be held in readiness, 
and accompanied by the servant of the little inn 
he went up the Grands Mulcts. Sylvain had 
arranged that if no one was there he would put 
out a signal and the search party would then 
ascend without delay. On reaching the hut at 
the Grands Mulcts his worst fears were realised 
it was empty. He now quickly regained Chamonix 
from where fourteen guides were just starting. He 
remounted with them immediately. By the time 
they got a little way above Pierre-Pointue, the 

109 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

snow was again falling heavily, it was impossible 
to go further. Next day the weather was so bad 
that the party had to descend to Chamonix, and 
for several days longer the rain in the valley and 
the snow on the heights continued. 

On the 1 5th the weather cleared, and Sylvain 
went up to Plan-Praz to see if from there any 
traces of the lost ones could be discovered with 
the telescope. The first glance showed him five 
black specks near the Petit Mulcts, which could 
be nothing else but the bodies of some of the victims. 
On the 1 6th, with twenty-three other guides, 
Sylvain spent the night at the Grands Mulcts. 
The 1 7th, they mounted to the spot they had 
examined with the telescope, and there they found 
the bodies of Mr M'Corkindale and two porters. 
Three hundred feet higher was Mr Bean, with his 
head leaning on his hand, and by him another 
porter. These were in a perfectly natural position, 
whereas the others appeared to have slipped to 
where they were, as their clothes were torn, and 
the ropes, knapsacks (still containing food), sticks, 
and so on, lay by the others above. 

The five bodies were frozen hard. As complete 
a search as possible was now made for the re- 
maining six members of the party, but without 

no 



MOST TERRIBLE OF ALPINE TRAGEDIES 

success. Probably they fell either into a crevasse or 
down the Italian side of the mountain. 

It is no wonder that Mr Mathews calls this " the 
most lamentable catastrophe ever known in the 
annals of Alpine adventure." 

But the most pathetic part of the story is to 
come. 

During those terrible, hopeless hours Mr Bean 
had made notes of what was happening, and they 
tell us all we shall ever know about the disaster : 

" Tuesday, 6th September. I have made the ascent 
of Mont Blanc with ten persons eight guides, Mr 
M'Corkindale, and Mr Randall. We arrived at the 
summit at half-past two o'clock. Immediately after 
leaving it I was enveloped in clouds of snow. We 
passed the night in a grotto excavated out of the 
snow, affording very uncomfortable shelter, and I was 
ill all night. *jth September, morning. Intense cold 
much snow, which falls uninterruptedly. Guides 
restless, jth September, evening. We have been on 
Mont Blanc for two days in a terrible snowstorm ; 
we have lost our way, and are in a hole scooped out 
of the snow at a height of 15,000 feet. I have no 
hope of descending. Perhaps this book may be 
found and forwarded. We have no food. My feet 
are already frozen, and I am exhausted. I have 

in 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

only strength to write a few words. I die in the 
faith of Jesus Christ, with affectionate thoughts of 
my family my remembrance to all. I trust we 
may meet in heaven." 



112 



CHAPTER X 

A WONDERFUL SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE 

'T~" V WICE at least in the Alps climbers have lost 
their footing at the top of a steep slope, and 
rolled down it for so long a distance that it seemed 
impossible they could survive. The two plucky 
mountaineers who have competed in an involuntary 
race to the bottom of a frozen hillside are Mr 
Birkbeck, in his famous slide near Mont Blanc, and 
Mr Whymper, when he made his startling glissade 
on the Matterhorn. 

It was in July 1861 that a party of friends, 
whose names are well known to all climbers, set 
out to cross a high glacier pass in the chain of 
Mont Blanc. The Revs. Leslie Stephen, Charles 
Hudson, and Messrs Tuckett, Mather, and Birk- 
beck were the travellers, while in addition to the 
three magnificent guides, Melchior Anderegg, Perren, 
and Bennen, there were two local guides from the 
village of St Gervais. 

H 113 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Let me give the account of the accident in Mr 
Hudson's own words. How sad to think that, 
only four years later, this capable and brave moun- 
taineer himself perished on the grim north slopes 
of the Matterhorn ! 

The Col de Miage is reached by a steep slope 
of ice or frozen snow, and is just a gap in the 
chain of peaks which runs south-west from Mont 
Blanc. Col is the word used for a pass in French- 
speaking districts. 

"On the morning of the nth, at 3.30, we left 
the friendly rock on or near which we had passed 
the night, and at 7 o'clock we had reached the 
summit of the Col de Miage. Here we sat down 
on a smooth, hard plain of snow, and had our 
second breakfast. Shortly afterwards Birkbeck had 
occasion to leave us for a few minutes, though his 
departure was not remarked at the time. When 
we discovered his absence, Melchior followed his 
footsteps, and I went after him, and, to our dismay, 
we saw the tracks led to the edge of the ice-slope, 
and then suddenly stopped. The conclusion was 
patent at a glance. I was fastening two ropes 
together, and Melchior had already bound one end 
round his chest, with a view to approach or even 

descend a portion of the slope for a better view, 

114 



A SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE 

when some of the party descried Birkbeck a long 
way below us. He had fallen an immense distance. 
"My first impulse led me to wish that Melchior 
and I should go down to Birkbeck as fast as 
possible, and leave the rest to follow with the 
ropes ; but on proposing this plan some of the 
party objected. For a considerable time Birkbeck 
shouted to us, not knowing whether we could see 
his position. His course had been arrested at a 
considerable distance above the bottom of the 
slope, by what means we know not; and just 
below him stretched a snow-covered crevasse, across 
which he must pass if he went further. We shouted 
to him to remain where he was, but no distinguish- 
able sounds reached him ; and to our dismay we 
presently saw him gradually moving downwards 
then he stopped again he moved forwards and 
again he was on the brink of the crevasse ; but 
we could do nothing for him. At length he slipped 
down upon the slope of snow which bridged the 
abyss. I looked anxiously to see if it would sup- 
port his weight, and, to my relief, a small black 
speck continued visible. This removed my imme- 
diate cause of apprehension, and after a time he 
moved clear of this frail support down to the point 
where we afterwards joined him. Bennen was first 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

in the line, and after we had descended some dis- 
tance he untied himself and went down to Birkbeck. 
It was 9.30 when we reached him. He told us he 
was becoming faint and suffering from cold. On 
hearing this, Melchoir and I determined to delay no 
longer, and, accordingly, unroped and trotted down 
to the point where we could descend from the rocks 
to the slope upon which he was lying. Arrived at 
the place, I sat on the snow, and let Birkbeck lean 
against me, while I asked him if he felt any internal 
injury or if his ribs pained him. His manner of 
answering gave me strong grounds for hoping that 
there was little to fear on that score." 

Mr Hudson gives a graphic description of poor Mr 
Birkbeck's appearance when he was found on the 
snow. " His legs, thighs, and the lower part of his 
body were quite naked, with his trousers down about 
his feet. By his passage over the snow, the skin was 
removed from the outside of the legs and thighs, the 
knees, and the whole of the lower part of the back, 
and part of the ribs, together with some from the nose 
and forehead. He had not lost much blood, but he 
presented a most ghastly spectacle of bloody raw 
flesh. This, added to his great prostration, and our 
consciousness of the distance and difficulties which 

separated him from any bed, rendered the sight most 

116 



A SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE 

trying. He never lost consciousness. He afterwards 
described his descent as one of extreme rapidity, too 
fast to allow of his realising the sentiment of fear, but 
not sufficiently so to deprive him of thought. Some- 
times he descended feet first, sometimes head first, 
then he went sideways, and once or twice he had the 
sensation of shooting through the air. 

" The slope where he first lost his footing was gentle, 
and he tried to stop himself with his fingers and nails, 
but the snow was too hard. He had no fear during 
the descent, owing to the extreme rapidity ; but when 
he came to a halt on the snow, and was ignorant as to 
whether we saw, or could reach him, he experienced 
deep anguish of mind in the prospect of a lingering 
death. Happily, however, the true Christian principles 
in which he had been brought up, led him to cast 
himself upon the protection of that merciful Being 
who alone could help him. His prayers were heard, 
and immediately answered by the removal of his 
fears." 

The account of how the injured man was brought 
down to the valley is very exciting. Mr Hudson 
continues : " The next thing was to get him down as 
fast as possible, and the sledge suggested itself as the 
most feasible plan. Only the day before, at Con- 

tamines, I had had the boards made for it, and with- 

117 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

out them the runners (which, tied together, served me 
as an alpenstock) would have been useless. Two or 
three attempts were made before I could get the 
screws to fit the holes in the boards and runners, and 
poor Melchior, who was watching me, began to show 
signs of despair. At length the operation was com- 
pleted, and the sledge was ready. We spread a plaid, 
coats, and flannel shirts over the boards, then laid 
Birkbeck at full length on them, and covered him as 
well as we could. 

" Now came the ' tug-of-war,' for the snow was much 
softened by the sun, the slope was steep, and there 
were several crevasses ahead ; added to this, there 
was difficulty in getting good hold of the sledge, and 
every five or six steps one of the bearers plunged so 
deeply in the snow that we were obliged to halt. 
Birkbeck was all the time shivering so much that the 
sledge was sensibly shaken, and all the covering we 
could give him was but of little use. 

" I was well aware of the great danger Birkbeck was 
in, owing to the vast amount of skin which was 
destroyed, and 1 felt that every quarter of an hour 
saved was of very great importance ; still the frequent 
delay could not be avoided." 

So matters continued till the party was clear of the 

glacier. Then Mr Tuckett went ahead to Chamonix, 

II* 



A SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE 

a ten hours' tramp or so, in search of an English 
doctor, and on the way left orders for a carriage to be 
sent as far as there was a driving road, to meet the 
wounded man, and more men beyond to help in 
carrying him. The chief part of the transport was 
done by the three great guides, Melchoir, Bennen, and 
Perren, and was often over "abrupt slopes of rock, 
which to an ordinary walker would have appeared 
difficult, even without anything to carry. We had so 
secured Birkbeck with ropes and straps, that he could 
not slip off the sledge, otherwise he would on these 
occasions at once have parted company with his 
stretcher, and rolled down the rocks." 

At last, after incredible toil, they reached the 
pastures, and at about three o'clock in the afternoon 
eight hours after the accident, they got to the home 
of one of the guides, where they were able to make 
poor Mr Birkbeck more comfortable before undertak- 
ing the rest of the journey, warming his feet and 
wrapping him in blankets. For two hours more the 
poor fellow had to be carried down, and then they 
met the carriage, in which he was driven to St 
Gervais, accompanied by the doctor from 
Chamonix. 

Thanks to the skilful treatment and excellent 
nursing he received, Mr Birkbeck made a good 

119 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

recovery, though, of course, it was weeks before he 
could leave his bed. 

Mr Hudson ends his wonderfully interesting narra- 
tive with an account of a visit he paid later in the 
season to the place where the accident happened. 
He says " The result of our observations is as 
follows : ' The height of the Col de Miage is 1 1,095. 
The height of the point at which Birkbeck finally 
came to a standstill is 9328 feet ; so the distance he 
fell is, in perpendicular height, 1767 feet." As part of 
the slope would be at a gentle angle, one may believe 
that the slip was over something like a mile of surface ! 
Mr Hudson continues : " During the intervening 
three weeks, vast changes had taken place in the 
glacier. The snowy coating had left the couloir in 
parts, thus exposing ice in the line of Birkbeck's 
course, as well as a rock mid-way in the slope, against 
which our poor friend would most likely have struck, 
had the accident happened later. 

"This is one of that long chain of providential 
arrangements, by the combination of which we were 
enabled to save Birkbeck's life. 

(i) The recent snow, and favourable state of the 
glacier, enabled us to take an easier and 
much quicker route, if not the only one pos- 
sible for a wounded man 

120 



A SLIDE DOWN A WALL OF ICE 

(2) We had a singularly strong party of guides, 

without which we could not have got him 
down in time to afford any chance of his 
recovery. 

(3) If we had not had real efficient men as 

travellers in the party we should not have 
got the telegram sent to Geneva; and 
a few hours' delay in the arrival of Dr 
Metcalfe would probably have been fatal. 

(4) The day was perfectly calm and cloudless ; 

had there been wind or absence of sun, the 
cold might have been too much for such a 
shaken system to bear. 

(5) We had with us the very unusual addition of 

a sledge, without which it would have been 
scarcely possible to have carried him down. 
" One thing there was which greatly lessened the 
mental trial to those engaged in bringing Birkbeck 
down to St Gervais, and afterwards in attending 
upon him, and that was, his perfect calmness and 
patience and of these I cannot speak too highly. 
No doubt it contributed greatly to his recovery." 



121 



CHAPTER XI 

AN ADVENTURE ON THE TRIFT PASS 

T?EW passes leading out of the Valley of Zermatt 
are oftener crossed than the Trift. It is not 
considered a difficult pass, but the rocks on the 
Zinal side are loose and broken and the risk of 
falling stones is great at certain hours in the day. 
The Zinal side of the Trift is in shadow in the 
early morning, and therefore most climbers will 
either make so early a start from the Zermatt side 
that they can be sure of descending the dangerous 
part before the sun has thawed the icy fetters which 
hold the stones together during the night, or else 
they will set out from the Zinal side, and sleep at a 
little inn on a patch of rocks which jut out from 
the glacier at the foot of the pass, from which the 
top of the Trift can be reached long before there 
is any risk from a cannonade. 

One of the earliest explorers of this pass, however, 
Mr Thomas W. Hinchlifif, neglected the precaution 

122 



AN ADVENTURE ON THE TRIFT PASS 

of a sufficiently early start, and his party very nearly 
came to grief in consequence. 

He has given us an excellent description in Peaks y 
Passes, and Glaciers of what befell after they had got 
over the great difficulties, as they seemed in those 
days, of descending the steep wall of rock on the 
Zinal side. I will now begin to quote from his 
article : 

" Being thoroughly tired of the rocks, we resolved 
as soon as possible to get upon the ice where it 
swept the base of the precipices. The surface, how- 
ever, was furrowed by parallel channels of various 
magnitudes ; some several feet in depth, formed 
originally by the descent of stones and avalanches 
from the heights ; and we found one of these trough- 
like furrows skirting the base of the rocks we stood 
upon. One by one we entered, flattering ourselves 
that the covering of snow would afford us pretty 
good footing, but this soon failed ; the hard blue ice 
showed on the surface, and we found ourselves rather 
in a difficulty, for the sides of our furrow were higher 
here than at the point where we entered it, and so 
overhanging that it was impossible to get out. 

"Delay was dangerous, for the debris far below 
warned us that at any moment a shower of stones 
might come flying down our channel ; a glissade 

123 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

was equally dangerous ; for, though we might have 
shot down safely at an immense speed for some 
hundreds of feet, we should finally have been dashed 
into a sea of crevasses. Cachat in front solved the 
puzzle, and showed us how, by straddling with the 
feet as far apart as possible, the heel of each foot 
could find pretty firm hold in a mixture of half snow 
and half ice, his broad back, like a solid rock, being 
ready to check any slip of those behind him. 

"We were soon safe upon a fine open plateau 
of the neve, where we threaded our way among a 
few snow crevasses requiring caution, and then pre- 
pared for a comfortable halt in an apparently safe 
place. 

" The provision knapsacks were emptied and used 
as seats ; bottles of red wine were stuck upright in 
the snow ; a goodly leg of cold mutton on its sheet 
of paper formed the centre, garnished with hard eggs 
and bread and cheese, round which we ranged our- 
selves in a circle. High festival was held under the 
deep blue heavens, and now and then, as we looked 
up at the wonderful wall of rocks which we had 
descended, we congratulated ourselves on the victory. 
M. Seller's oranges supplied the rare luxury of a 
dessert, and we were just in the full enjoyment of the 

delicacy when a booming sound, like the discharge of 

124 



AN ADVENTURE ON THE TRIFT PASS 

a gun far over our heads, made us all at once glance 
upwards to the top of the Trifthorn. Close to its 
craggy summit hung a cloud of dust, like dirty 
smoke, and in few seconds another and a larger 
one burst forth several hundred feet lower. A 
glance through the telescope showed that a fall of 
rocks had commenced, and the fragments were leap- 
ing down from ledge to ledge in a series of cascades. 
The uproar became tremendous ; thousands of frag- 
ments making every variety of noise according to 
their size, and producing the effect of a fire of 
musketry and artillery combined, thundered down- 
wards from so great a height that we waited 
anxiously for some considerable time to see them 
reach the snow-field below. As nearly as we could 
estimate the distance, we were 500 yards from the 
base of the rocks, so we thought that, come what 
might, we were in a tolerably secure position. At 
last we saw many of the blocks plunge into the snow 
after taking their last fearful leap ; presently much 
larger fragments followed; the noise grew fiercer 
and fiercer, and huge blocks began to fall so near 
to us that we jumped to our feet, preparing to dodge 
them to the best of our ability. ' Look out ! ' cried 
someone, and we opened out right and left at the 
approach of a monster, evidently weighing many 

125 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

hundredweights, which was coming right at us like 
a huge shell fired from a mortar. It fell with a 
heavy thud not more than 20 feet from us, scat- 
tering lumps of snow into the circle." 

Years afterwards a very sad accident occurred at 
this spot, a lady being struck and killed by a falling 
stone. In this case the fatality was unquestionably 
due to the start having been made at too late an 
hour. An inn in the Trift Valley makes it easy to 
reach the pass soon after dawn. 



THE PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS. 

In 1864 many peaks remained unsealed, and passes 
untraversed in the Zermatt district, though now almost 
every inch of every mountain has felt the foot of man. 
Yet even now few passes have been made there so 
difficult and dangerous (if Mr Whymper's route be 
exactly followed) as that of the Morning, from Zinal 
to Zermatt. Mr Whymper gives a most graphic and 
exciting description of what befell his party, which 
included Mr Moore and the two famous guides Aimer 
and Croz. Having slept at some filthy chalets, the 
climbers, first passing over easy mountain slopes, 
gained a level glacier. Beyond this a way towards 

the unexplored gap in the ridge, which they called 

126 



PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS 

the Morning Pass, had to be decided on. The choice 
lay between difficult and perhaps impassable rocks, 
and an ice-slope so steep and broken that it appeared 
likely to turn out impracticable. In fact it was the 
sort of position that whichever route was chosen the 
climbers were sure, when once on it, to wish it had 
been the other. Finally, the ice-slope, over which a 
line of ice-cliffs hung threateningly, lurching right 
above the track to be taken, was decided on, and 
the whole party advanced for the attack. Mr 
Whymper writes : 

" Across this ice-slope Croz now proceeded to cut. 
It was executing a flank movement in the face of an 
enemy by whom we might be attacked at any 
moment. The peril was obvious. It was a monstrous 
folly. It was foolhardiness. A retreat should have 
been sounded. 1 

" ' I am not ashamed to confess,' wrote Moore in his 
Journal, 'that during the whole time we were crossing 
this slope my heart was in my mouth, and I never felt 
relieved from such a load of care as when, after, I 
suppose, a passage of about twenty minutes, we got 
on to the rocks and were in safety. ... I have never 
heard a positive oath come from Aimer's mouth, but 

1 The responsibility did not rest with Croz. His part was to 
advise, but not to direct. 

127 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the language in which he kept up a running commen- 
tary, more to himself than to me, as we went along, 
was stronger than I should have given him credit for 
using. His prominent feeling seemed to be one of 
indignation that we should be in such a position, and 
self-reproach at being a party to the proceeding ; 
while the emphatic way in which, at intervals, he 
exclaimed, ' Quick ; be quick/ sufficiently betokened 
his alarm. 

" It was not necessary to admonish Croz to be quick. 
He was fully as alive to the risk as any of the others. 
He told me afterwards that this place was the most 
dangerous he had ever crossed, and that no considera- 
tion whatever would tempt him to cross it again. 
Manfully did he exert himself to escape from the 
impending destruction. His head, bent down to his 
work, never turned to the right or to the left. One, two, 
three, went his axe, and then he stepped on to the 
spot he had been cutting. How painfully insecure 
should we have considered those steps at any other 
time ! But now, we thought only of the rocks in 
front, and of the hideous seracs, lurching over above 
us, apparently in the act of falling. 



128 



PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS 

" We got to the rocks in safety, and if they had been 
doubly as difficult as they were, we should still have 
been well content. We sat down and refreshed the 
inner man, keeping our eyes on the towering 
pinnacles of ice under which we had passed, but 
which, now, were almost beneath us. Without a pre- 
liminary warning sound, one of the largest as high 
as the Monument at London Bridge fell upon the 
slope below. The stately mass heeled over as if upon 
a hinge (holding together until it bent thirty degrees 
forwards), then it crushed out its base, and, rent into a 
thousand fragments, plunged vertically down upon 
the slope that we had crossed ! Every atom of our 
track that was in its course was obliterated ; all the 
new snow was swept away, and a broad sheet of 
smooth, glassy ice, showed the resistless force with 
which it had fallen. 

" It was inexcusable to follow such a perilous path, 
but it is easy to understand why it was taken. To 
have retreated from the place where Croz suggested a 
change of plan, to have descended below the reach of 
danger, and to have mounted again by the route 
which Aimer suggested, would have been equivalent 
to abandoning the excursion ; for no one would have 
passed another night in the chalet on the Arpitetta 

Alp. ' Many ' says Thucydides, * though seeing well 
I 129 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the perils ahead, are forced along by fear of dis- 
honour as the world calls it so that, vanquished by 
a mere word, they fall into irremediable calamities/ 
Such was nearly the case here. No one could say a 
word in justification of the course which was adopted ; 
all were alive to the danger that was being encoun- 
tered ; yet a grave risk was deliberately although 
unwillingly incurred, in preference to admitting, by 
withdrawal from an untenable position, that an error 
of judgment had been committed. 

" After a laborious trudge over many species of 
snow, and through many varieties of vapour 
from the quality of a Scotch mist to that of a 
London fog we at length stood on the depression 
between the Rothhorn and the Schallhorn. 1 A 
steep wall of snow was upon the Zinal side of 
the summit ; but what the descent was like on the 
other side we could not tell, for a billow of snow 
tossed over its crest by the western winds, sus- 
pended o'er Zermatt with motion arrested, re- 
sembling an ocean-wave frozen in the act of 
breaking, cut off the view. 2 

1 The summit of the pass has been marked on Dufour's map r 
3793 metres, or 12,444 feet. 

8 These snow-cornices are common on the crests of high 
mountain ridges, and it is always prudent (just before arriving 
upon the summit of a mountain or ridge), to sound with the alp- 

130 



PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS 

" Croz held hard in by the others, who kept 
down the Zinal side opened his shoulders, flogged 
down the foam, and cut away the cornice to its 
junction with the summit ; then boldly leaped down 
and called on us to follow him. 

"It was well for us now that we had such a man 
as leader. An inferior or less daring guide 
would have hesitated to enter upon the descent 
in a dense mist ; and Croz himself would have 
done right to pause had he been less magnificent 
in physique. He acted, rather than said, * Where 
snow lies fast, there man can go ; where ice exists, 
a way may be cut ; it is a question of power ; I 
have the power all you have to do is to follow 
me.' Truly, he did not spare himself, and could 
he have performed the feats upon the boards of 
a theatre that he did upon this occasion, he would 
have brought down the house with thunders of 
applause. Here is what Moore wrote in his Journal 
" (' The descent bore a strong resemblance to the 
Col de Pilatte, but was very much steeper and 
altogether more difficult, which is saying a good 

enstock, that is to say, drive it in, to discover whether there is 
one or not. Men have often narrowly escaped losing their 
lives from neglecting this precaution. 

These cornices are frequently rolled round in a volute, and 
sometimes take extravagant forms. 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

deal. Croz was in his element, and selected his 
way with marvellous sagacity, while Aimer had 
an equally honourable and, perhaps, more respon- 
sible post in the rear, which he kept with his usual 
steadiness. . . . One particular passage has im- 
pressed itself on my mind as one of the most 
nervous I have ever made. We had to pass along 
a crest of ice, a mere knife-edge, on our left a 
broad crevasse, whose bottom was lost in blue haze, 
and on our right, at an angle of 7j or more, a slope 
falling to a similar gulf below. Croz, as he went 
along the edge, chipped small notches in the ice, in 
which we placed our feet, with the toes well turned 
out, doing all we knew to preserve our balance. 
While stepping from one of these precarious foot- 
holds to another, I staggered for a moment. I 
had not really lost my footing ; but the agonised 
tone in which Aimer, who was behind me, on 
seeing me waver, exclaimed, " Slip not, sir ! " gave 
us an even livelier impression than we already 
had of the insecurity of the position .... One 
huge chasm, whose upper edge was far above the 
lower one, could neither be leaped nor turned, 
and threatened to prove an insuperable barrier. 
But Croz showed himself equal to the emergency. 

Held up by the rest of the party, he cut a series 

132 



PERILS OF THE MOMING PASS 

of holes for the hands and feet down and along 
the almost perpendicular wall of ice forming the 
upper side of the schrund. Down this slippery 
staircase we crept, with our faces to the wall, until 
a point was reached where the width of the chasm 
was not too great for us to drop across. Before 
we had done, we got quite accustomed to taking 
flying leaps over the schnmds. ... To make a 
long story short ; after a most desperate and ex- 
citing struggle, and as bad a piece of ice-work as 
it is possible to imagine, we emerged on to the 
upper plateau of the Hohlicht Glacier.') " 

From here, in spite of many further difficulties 
necessitating a long detour, the party safely de- 
scended to Zermatt by the familiar Trift path. 



133 



CHAPTER XII 

AN EXCITING PASSAGE OF THE COL DE PILATTE 

T7 VEN now the valleys and mountains of Dauphin6 
are neglected in comparison with the ranges of 
Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and other famous moun- 
tain chains of the Alps. In 1864, when Mr Whymper 
with his friends Messrs Moore and Walker under- 
took a summer campaign there, it was practically 
unexplored from the climbers' point of view. The 
party was a skilful and experienced one, the guides, 
Aimer and Croz, of the highest class, and the esprit 
de corps in the little army of invasion most admirable. 
Thus it is no wonder that peak after peak fell before 
them, passes were accomplished at the first assault, 
and no accident or annoyance spoilt the splendid 
series of expeditions which were so successfully 
accomplished.. Of these I have taken the account 
of the crossing of the Col de Pilatte, a high glacier 
pass, for, though it was excelled in difficulty by other 
climbs, yet it is so wittily described by Mr Whymper 

134 



AN EXCITING PASSAGE 

in his Scrambles in the Alps, and gives so excel- 
lent an idea of the sort of work met with on glaciers, 
and the ease with which a thoroughly competent 
party tackles it, that it cannot fail to be read with 
interest. 

The three Englishmen had been joined by a 
French friend of theirs, Monsieur Reynaud, and had 
left their night quarters at Entraigues at 3.30 A.M. 
on the morning of 27th June. Their course was pro- 
digiously steep. In less than two miles difference of 
latitude they rose one mile of absolute height. The 
route, however, was not really difficult, and they 
made good progress. They had reached the foot 
of the steep part when I take up the narrative in 
Mr Whymper's own words : 

" At 9.30 A.M. we commenced the ascent of the 
couloir leading from the nameless glacier to a point 
in the ridge, just to the east of Mont Bans. 1 So far 
the route had been nothing more than a steep grind 
in an angle where little could be seen, but now views 
opened out in several directions, and the way began 
to be interesting. It was more so, perhaps, to us 
than to our companion M. Reynaud, who had no rest 

1 The upper part of the southern side of the Col de Pilatte, 
and the small glaciers spoken of on p. 211, can be seen from 
the high road leading from Brian^on to Mont Dauphin, between 
the 1 2th and i3th kilometre stones (from Briangon). 

135 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

in the last night. He was, moreover, heavily laden. 
Science was to be regarded his pockets were stuffed 
with books ; heights and angles were to be observed 
his knapsack was filled with instruments ; hunger 
was to be guarded against his shoulders were orna- 
mented with a huge nimbus of bread, and a leg of 
mutton swung behind from his knapsack, looking 
like an overgrown tail. Like a good-hearted fellow 
he had brought this food thinking we might be in 
need of it. As it happened, we were well provided 
for, and, having our own packs to carry, could not 
relieve him of his superfluous burdens, which, natu- 
rally, he did not like to throw away. As the angles 
steepened, the strain on his strength became more 
and more apparent. At last he began to groan. At 
first a most gentle and mellow groan ; and as we rose 
so did his groans, till at last the cliffs were groaning 
in echo, and we were moved to laughter. 

" Croz cut the way with unflagging energy through- 
out the whole of the ascent, and at 10.45 we stood on 
the summit of our pass, intending to refresh ourselves 
with a good halt ; but just at that moment a mist, 
which had been playing about the ridge, swooped 
down and blotted out the whole of the view on the 
northern side. Croz was the only one who caught a 
glimpse of the descent, and it was deemed advisable 

136 




I 






AN EXCITING PASSAGE 

to push on immediately, while its recollection was 
fresh in his memory. We are consequently unable 
to tell anything about the summit of the pass, except 
that it lies immediately to the east of Mont Bans, 
and is elevated about 11,300 feet above the level of 
the sea. It is one of the highest passes in Dauphine". 
We called it the Col de Pilatte. 

" We commenced to descend towards the Glacier 
de Pilatte by a slope of smooth ice, the face of which, 
according to the measurement of Mr Moore, had an 
inclination of 54 ! Croz still led, and the others 
followed at intervals of about 15 feet, all being 
tied together, and Aimer occupying the responsible 
position of last man : the two guides were therefore 
about 70 feet apart. They were quite invisible 
to each other from the mist, and looked spectral 
even to us. But the strong man could be heard by 
all hewing out the steps below, while every now and 
then the voice of the steady man pierced the cloud : 
* Slip not, dear sirs ; place well your feet ; stir not 
until you are certain/ 

" For three-quarters of an hour we progressed in 
this fashion. The axe of Croz all at once stopped. 
' What is the matter, Croz ? ' ' Bergschrund, gentle- 
men.' * Can we get over ? ' * Upon my word, I 
don't know ; I think we must jump.' The clouds 

137 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

rolled away right and left as he spoke. The effect 
was dramatic ! It was a coup de thedtre, preparatory 
to the * great sensation leap ' which was about to 
be executed by the entire company. 

" Some unseen cause, some cliff or obstruction in 
the rocks underneath, had caused our wall of ice to 
split into two portions, and the huge fissure which had 
thus been formed extended, on each hand, as far as 
could be seen. We, on the slope above, were 
separated from the slope below by a mighty crevasse. 
No running up and down to look for an easier place 
to cross could be done on an ice-slope of 54 ; the 
chasm had to be passed then and there. 

A downward jump of 15 or 16 feet, and a 
forward leap of 7 or 8 feet had to be made at the 
same time. That is not much, you will say. It 
was not much. It was not the quantity, but it was 
the quality of the jump which gave to it its particular 
flavour. You had to hit a narrow ridge of ice. If 
that was passed, it seemed as if you might roll 
down for ever and ever. If it was not attained, you 
dropped into the crevasse below, which, although 
partly choked by icicles and snow that had fallen 
from above, was still gaping in many places, ready 
to receive an erratic body. 

" Croz untied Walker in order to get rope enough, 
138 



AN EXCITING PASSAGE 

and warning us to hold fast, sprang over the chasm. 
He alighted cleverly on his feet ; untied himself and 
sent up the rope to Walker, who followed his 
example. It was then my turn, and I advanced to 
the edge of the ice. The second which followed was 
what is called a supreme moment. That is to say, 
I felt supremely ridiculous. The world seemed to re- 
volve at a frightful pace, and my stomach to fly away. 
The next moment I found myself sprawling in the 
snow, and then, of course, vowed that it was nothing, 
and prepared to encourage my friend Reynaud. 

" He came to the edge and made declarations. I 
do not believe that he was a whit more reluctant to 
pass the place than we others, but he was infinitely 
more demonstrative in a word, he was French. He 
wrung his hands, ' Oh ! what a diable of a place ! ' 
'It is nothing, Reynaud,' I said, ' it is nothing.' 
'Jump,' cried the others, 'jump.' But he turned 
round, as far as one can do such a thing in an ice- 
step, and covered his face with his hands, ejaculating, 
' Upon my word, it is not possible. No ! no ! no ! 
it is not possible.' 

" How he came over I scarcely know. We saw a 
toe it seemed to belong to Moore ; we saw Reynaud 
a flying body, coming down as if taking a header 
into water ; with arms and legs all abroad, his leg 

139 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

of mutton flying in the air, his baton escaped from 
his grasp ; and then we heard a thud as if a bundle 
of carpets had been pitched out of a window. When 
set upon his feet he was a sorry spectacle ; his head 
was a great snowball ; brandy was trickling out of 
one side of the knapsack, chartreuse out of the 
other we bemoaned its loss, but we roared with 
laughter. 

" I cannot close this chapter without paying tribute 
to the ability with which Croz led us, through a 
dense mist, down the remainder of the Glacier de 
Pilatte. As an exhibition of strength and skill, it has 
seldom been surpassed in the Alps or elsewhere. On 
this almost unknown and very steep glacier, he was 
perfectly at home, even in the mists. Never able to 
see 50 feet ahead, he still went on with the utmost 
certainty, and without having to retrace a single 
step ; and displayed from first to last consummate 
knowledge of the materials with which he was deal- 
ing. Now he cut steps down one side of a serac, went 
with a dash at the other side, and hauled us up after 
him ; then cut away along a ridge until a point was 
gained from which we could jump on to another 
ridge ; then, doubling back, found a snow-bridge, 
over which he crawled on hands and knees, towed 
us across by the legs, ridiculing our apprehensions,. 

140 



AN EXCITING PASSAGE 

mimicking our awkwardness, declining all help, 
bidding us only to follow him. 

" About i P.M. we emerged from the mist and found 
ourselves just arrived upon the level portion of the 
glacier, having, as Reynaud properly remarked, come 
down as quickly as if there had not been any mist at 
all. Then we attacked the leg of mutton which my 
friend had so thoughtfully brought with him, and 
afterwards raced down, with renewed energy, to La 
Berarde." 



141 



CHAPTER XIII 

AN ADVENTURE ON THE ALETSCH GLACIER 

A /T R WILLIAM LONGMAN, a former Vice- 

1V President of the Alpine Club, has given us 

an interesting account in The Alpine Journal of an 

exciting adventure which happened to his son in 

August 1862. 

The party, consisting of Mr Longman, his son, 
aged fifteen, two friends, two guides, and a porter, set 
out one lovely morning from the Eggischhorn Hotel 
for an excursion on the Great Aletsch Glacier. The 
names of the guides were Fedier and Andreas 
Weissenfliih. 

Mr Longman writes : " We started in high spirits ; 
the glacier was in perfect order; no fresh snow 
covered the ice ; the crevasses were all unhidden ; 
and no one thought it necessary to use the rope. I 
felt it to be a wise precaution, however, to place my 
son, a boy of fifteen years of age, under the care of 

the Eggischhorn porter. It was his second visit to 

142 



ADVENTURE ON THE ALETSCH GLACIER 

Switzerland, and he could, I am sure, have taken good 
care of himself, but I felt it was my duty to place 
him under the care of a guide. I have no wish to 
throw undeserved blame on the guide ; but his care- 
lessness was unquestionably the cause of the accident. 
He began wrong, and I ought to have interfered. He 
tied his handkerchief in a knot, and, holding it him- 
self, gave it to my son to hold also in his hand. 
This was worse than useless, and, in fact, was the 
cause of danger, for it partly deprived him of that 
free and active use of his limbs which is essential 
to safety. It threw him off his guard. Except at a 
crevasse, it was unnecessary for the boy to have any- 
thing to hold by ; and, at a crevasse, the handkerchief 
would have been insufficient. The impression that 
there was no real danger, and that all that was re- 
quired was caution in crossing the crevasses, pre- 
vented my interfering. So the guide went on, his 
hand holding the handkerchief behind him, and my 
son following, his hand also holding the handkerchief. 
Many a time I complained to the guide that he took 
my boy over wide parts of the crevasses because he 
would not trouble himself to diverge from his path, 
and many a time did I compel him to turn aside to a 
narrower chasm. At last, I was walking a few yards 
to his left, and had stepped over a narrow crevasse, 

143 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

when I was startled by an exclamation. I turned 

round suddenly, and my son was out of sight ! I 

will not harrow up my own feelings, or those of my 

readers, by attempting to describe the frightful 

anguish that struck me to the heart ; but will only 

relate, plainly and calmly, all that took place. 

When my son fell, the crevasse, which I had 

crossed so easily, became wider, and its two sides 

were joined by a narrow ridge of ice. It was 

obviously impossible to ascertain exactly what had 

taken place ; but I am convinced that the guide 

went on in his usual thoughtless way, with his hand 

behind him, drawing my son after him, and that, as 

soon as he placed his foot on the narrow ridge, he 

slipped and fell. I rushed to the edge of the 

crevasse and called out to my poor boy. To my 

inexpressible delight he at once answered me calmly 

and plainly. As I afterwards ascertained, he was 

50 feet from me, and neither could he see us nor 

we see him. But he was evidently unhurt ; he was 

not frightened, and he was not beyond reach. In an 

instant Weissenfliih was ready to descend into the 

crevasse. He buckled on one of my belts, 1 fixed it 

1 In the early days of mountaineering it was the custom to 
pass the rope through a ring or spring-hook attached to a 
strong leather belt, instead of, as now, attaching it in a loop 
round the body of each climber. 

144 



ADVENTURE ON THE ALETSCH GLACIER 

to the rope, and told us to lower him down. My 
two friends and I, and the other two guides, held 
on to the rope, and slowly and gradually, according 
to Weissenfliih's directions, we paid it out. It was a 
slow business, but we kept on encouraging my son, 
and receiving cheery answers from him in return. 
At last Weissenfluh told us, to our intense joy, that 
he had reached my son, that he had hold of him, and 
that we might haul up. Strongly and steadily we 
held on, drawing both the boy and the guide, as we 
believed, nearer and nearer, till at length, to our inex- 
pressible horror, we drew up Weissenfluh alone. He 
had held my son by the collar of his coat. The cloth 
was wet, his hand was cold, and the coat slipped from 
his grasp. I was told that when my boy thus again 
fell he uttered a cry, but either I heard it not or 
forgot it. The anguish of the moment prevented my 
noticing it, and, fortunately, we none of us lost our 
presence of mind, but steadily held on to the rope. 
Poor Weissenfluh reached the surface exhausted, 
dispirited, overwhelmed with grief. He threw him- 
self on the glacier in terrible agony. In an instant 
Fedier was ready to descend, and we began to lower 
him ; but the crevasse was narrow, and Fedier could 
not squeeze himself through the ice. We had to pull 

him up again before he had descended many feet. 
K 145 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

By this time the brave young Weissenfliih had re- 
covered, and was ready again to go down. But we 
thought it desirable to take the additional precaution 
of lowering the other rope, with one of the belts 
securely fixed to it. My son quickly got hold of it, 
and placed the belt round his body, but he told us 
his hands were too cold to buckle it. Weissenfliih 
now again descended, and soon he told us he had 
fixed the belt. With joyful heart some hauled away 
at one rope and some at the other, till at length, after 
my son had been buried in the ice for nearly half an 
hour, both he and the guide were brought to the 
surface. . . . Let a veil rest over the happiness of 
meeting. My boy's own account of what befell him 
is, that he first fell sideways on to a ledge in the 
crevasse, and then vertically, but providentially with 
his feet downwards, till his progress was arrested by 
the narrowness of the crevasse. He says he is sure 
he was stopped by being wedged in, because his 
feet were hanging loose. His arms were free. He 
believes the distance he fell, when Weissenfliih 
dropped him, was about three or four yards, and 
that he fell to nearly, but not quite, the same place 
as that to which he fell at first, and that, in his first 
position, he could not have put the belt on. His fall 

was evidently a slide for the greater part of the dis- 

146 



ADVENTURE ON THE ALETSCH GLACIER 

tance ; had it been a sheer fall it would have been 
impossible to escape severe injury." 

A LOYAL COMPANION 

The following is taken from The Times of 23rd 
July i 886. 

"On Tuesday, i3th July, Herr F. Burckhardt, 
member of the Basel section of the Swiss Alpine 
Club, accompanied by the guides Fritz Teutschmann 
and Johann Jossi, both from Grindelwald, made an 
attempt to ascend the Jungfrau from the side of the 
Little Scheideck. After leaving the Guggi cabin the 
party mounted the glacier of the same name. The 
usual precautions were of course taken that is to say, 
the three men were roped together, Herr Burckhardt 
in the middle, one of the guides before, the other 
behind him. When the climbers reached the seracs, 
at a point marked on the Siegfried Karte as being at 
an elevation of 2700 metres, an enormous piece of ice 
broke off from the upper part of the glacier, and came 
thundering down. Although by good fortune the 
mass of the avalanche did not sweep across the path 
of the three men, they were struck by several large 
blocks of ice, and sent flying. Jossi, who was leading, 
went head first into a crevasse of unfathomable depth, 
dragging after him Herr Burckhardt, who, however, 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

contrived to hold on to the edge of the crevasse, but 
in such a position that he could not budge, and was 
unable to help either himself or Jossi. Their lives 
at that moment depended absolutely on the staunch- 
ness of Teutschmann, who alone had succeeded in 
keeping his feet. It was beyond his power to do 
more ; impossible by his own unaided strength to 
haul up the two men who hung by the rope. If he 
had given way a single step all three would have been 
precipitated to the bottom of the crevasse. So there 
he stood, with feet and ice-axe firmly planted, holding 
on for dear life, conscious that the end was a mere 
question of time, and a very short time ; his strength 
was rapidly waning, and then ? It would have been 
easy for the two to escape by sacrificing the third. 
One slash of Burckhardt's knife would have freed both 
Teutschmann and himself. But no such dastardly 
idea occurred to either of them. They were resolved 
to live or die together. Half an hour passed ; they 
had almost abandoned hope, and Teutschmann's 
forces were well-nigh spent, when help came just in 
time to save them. The same morning another party, 
consisting of two German tourists, and the two guides 
Peter Schlegel and Rudolph Kaufmann, had started 
from the Little Scheideck for the Jungfrau, and 

coming on traces of Burckhardt's party had followed 

148 




ON A SNOW-COVERED GLACIER. 
The party is crossing a Snow Bridge, and the rope between the centre and last man is too slack for safety. 



To face p. 148. 



A LOYAL COMPANION 

them up, and arrived before it was too late on the 
scene of the accident. Without wasting a moment 
Schlegel went down into the crevasse and fastened 
Jossi to another rope, so that those above were 
enabled to draw him up and release Burckhardt and 
Teutschmann. Jossi, although bruised and exhausted, 
was able to walk to the Scheideck, and all reached 
Grindelwald in safety." 

When it is remembered how few people make this 
expedition, the escape of Mr Burckhardt's party is the 
more wonderful, and would not have been possible 
unless other climbers had taken the same route that 
day. This way up the Jungfrau is always somewhat 
exposed to falling ice, though sometimes it is less 
dangerous than at other times. As the editor of The 
Alpine Journal has written, "no amount of experience 
can avail against falling missiles, and the best skill of 
the mountaineer is shown in keeping out of their 
way." 

A BRAVE GUIDE 

The brave actions of guides are so many in number 
that it would be impossible to tell of them all, and 
many noble deeds have never found their way into 
print. The following, however, is related of a guide 

with whom I have made many ascents, and is further- 

149 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

more referred to in The Alpine Journal as "an act of 
bravery for which it would be hard to find a parallel 
in the annals of mountaineering." 

On ist September 1898, a party of two German 
gentlemen with a couple of guides went up Piz Palii, 
a glacier-clad peak frequently ascended from Pon- 
tresina. One of the guides was a Tyrolese, Klimmer 
by name, the other a native of the Engadine, 
Schnitzler. 

They had completed the ascent of the actual peak, 
and were on their way down, some distance below the 
Bellavista Saddle. Here there are several large 
crevasses, and the slope is very steep at this point. I 
remember passing down it with Schnitzler the 
previous January, and finding much care needed to 
cross a big chasm. Schnitzler was leading, then came 
the two travellers, finally the Tyrolese, who came 
down last man. Suddenly Schnitzler, who must have 
stepped on a snow-bridge, and Herr Nasse dropped 
without a sound into the chasm. Dr Borchardt was 
dragged some steps after them, but managed to check 
himself on the very brink of the abyss. Behind was 
Klimmer, but on so steep a surface that he could give 
no help beyond standing firm. At last, after some 
anxious moments, came a call from below, " Pull ! " 

They did their best but in vain. " My God ! " cried 

150 



Of THE 

UNIVERSITY 

AUFQgi 



A BRAVE GUIDE 

Schnitzler from below, " I can't get out ! " A period 
of terrible apprehension followed. Herr Nasse was 
entreated to try and help a little, or to cut himself 
free from the rope, as he appeared to be suffering 
greatly. But he was helpless, hanging with the rope 
pressing his chest till he could hardly breathe, and 
cried out that he could stand it no longer. Dr 
Borchardt made a plucky attempt to render assist- 
ance, and the desperate endeavour nearly caused him 
to fall also into the crevasse. 

The position was terrible, and Herr Nasse was at 
the end of his forces. He called out in a dying voice 
that he could bear no more it was the last time he 
spoke. 

Of Schnitzler nothing was heard, and the others 
could not tell if he were still alive. 

But while this terrible scene was passing, Schnitzler 
had performed an act of the highest bravery. First 
he had tried, by using his axe, to climb out of the 
icy prison where he hung. This he could not do, so 
steadying himself against the glassy wall, he deliber- 
ately cut himself loose from the rope. He dropped 
to the floor of the crevasse, which, luckily, was not 
of extraordinary depth, and being uninjured, he set 
himself to find a way out. He followed the crevasse 
along its entire length, and discovered a little ledge 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

of ice, with the aid of which, panting and exhausted, 
he reached the surface. 

But even with Schnitzler's help it was impossible 
to raise Herr Nasse out of the chasm. The rope had 
cut deeply into the snow. He hung underneath an 
eave of the soft surface and could not be moved. 
Another willing helper, an Englishman, now came 
up, and after a time the body for Herr Nasse had 
not survived was lowered to the floor of the 
crevasse. Every effort was made to restore anima- 
tion, but with no result, and there was nothing left 
to do but leave that icy grave and descend to the 
valley. Herr Nasse had suffered from a weak heart 
and an attack of pleurisy, and these gave him 
but a poor chance of withstanding the terrible pres- 
sure of the rope. Dr Scriven, from whose spirited 
translation from the German I have taken my facts, 
remarks that, " The death of Professor Nasse seems 
to emphasize a warning, already painfully impressed 
on us by the loss of Mr Norman Neruda, that there 
are special dangers awaiting those whose vital organs 
are not perfectly sound, and who undertake the 
exertion and fatigue of long and difficult climbs." 



152 



CHAPTER XIV 

A WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES 



of the highest and hardest passes in the 
Alps is the Sesia-Joch, 13,858 feet high, near 
Monte Rosa. The well-known mountaineer, Mr Ball, 
writing in 1863, referred to its first passage by Messrs 
George and Moore, as " amongst the most daring of 
Alpine exploits," and expressed a doubt whether it 
would ever be repeated. The party went up the 
steep Italian side (on the other, or Swiss side, it is 
quite easy). We can, therefore, judge of the astonish- 
ment of the members of the Alpine Club when they 
learnt that in 1869 "two ladies had not only crossed 
this most redoubtable of glacier passes, but crossed it 
from Zermatt to Alagna, thus descending the wall of 
rock, the ascent of which had until then been looked 
on as an extraordinary feat for first-rate climbers." 
The following extract from an Italian paper, aided 
by the notes communicated by the Misses Pigeon to 
The Alpine Journal, fully explains how this accidental 

153 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

but brilliant feat of mountaineering was happily 
brought to a successful termination. 

"On nth August 1869, Miss Anna and Miss Ellen 
Pigeon, of London, were at the Riffel Hotel, above 
Zermatt, with the intention of making the passage of 
the Lys-Joch on the next day, in order to reach 
Gressonay. Starting at 3 A.M. on the I2th, accom- 
panied by Jean Martin, guide of Sierre, and by a 
porter, they arrived at 4 A.M. at the Corner Glacier, 
which they crossed rapidly to the great plateau, en- 
closed between the Zumstein-Spitz, Signal-Kuppe, 
Parrot-Spitze, and Lyskamm, where they arrived at 
IO A.M. At this point, instead of bearing to the right, 
which is the way to the Lys-Joch, they turned too much 
towards the left, so that they found themselves on a 
spot at the extremity of the plateau, from which 
they saw beneath their feet a vast and profound 
precipice, terminating at a great depth upon a glacier. 
The guide had only once, about four years before, 
crossed the Lys-Joch, and in these desert and extra- 
ordinary places, where no permanent vestiges remain 
of previous passages, he had not remembered the 
right direction, nor preserved a very clear idea of the 
localities. At the sight of the tremendous precipice 
he began to doubt whether he might not have mis- 
taken the way, and, to form a better judgment, he 

154 



WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES 

left the ladies on the Col, half-stiffened with cold from 
the violence of the north wind, ascended to the 
Parrot-Spitze, and advanced towards the Ludwigs- 
hohe, in order to examine whether along this preci- 
pice, which lay inexorably in front, there might be a 
place where a passage could be effected. But where- 
ever he turned his eyes he saw nothing but broken 
rocks and couloirs yet more precipitous. 

"In returning to the Col after his fruitless explora- 
tion, almost certain that he had lost his way, he saw 
among some debris of rock, an empty bottle (which 
had been placed there by Messrs George and Moore 
in 1862). This discovery persuaded him that here 
must be the pass, since some one in passing by the 
place had there deposited this bottle. He then applied 
himself to examining with greater attention the rocks 
below, and thought he saw a possibility of descending 
by them. He proposed this to the ladies, and they 
immediately commenced operations. All being tied 
together, at proper intervals, with a strong rope, they 
began the perilous descent, sometimes over the naked 
rock, sometimes over more or less extensive slopes of 
ice, covered with a light stratum of snow, in which 
steps had to be cut. It was often necessary to stop, 
in order to descend one after the other by means of 
the rope to a point where it might be possible to rest 

155 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

without being held up. The tremendous precipice 
was all this time under their eyes, seeming only to 
increase as they descended. This arduous and peri- 
lous exertion had continued for more than seven 
hours when, towards 6 P.M., the party arrived at a 
point beyond which all egress seemed closed. Slip- 
pery and almost perpendicular rocks beneath, right 
and left, and everywhere ; near and around not a 
space sufficient to stretch one's self upon, the sun 
about to set, night at hand ! What a position for the 
courageous travellers, and for the poor guide on whom 
devolved the responsibility of the fatal consequences 
which appeared inevitable ! 

"Nevertheless, Jean Martin did not lose his courage. 
Having caused the ladies to rest on the rocks, he ran 
right and left, climbing as well as he could, in search 
of a passage. For about half an hour he looked and 
felt for a way, but in vain. At length it appeared to 
him that it would be possible to risk a long descent 
by some rough projections which occurred here and 
there in the rocks. With indescribable labour, and at 
imminent peril of rolling as shapeless corpses into the 
crevasses of the glacier below, the travellers at length 
set foot upon the ice. It was 8 P.M.; they had com- 
menced the descent at n A.M.; they crossed the 
Sesia Glacier at a running pace, on account of the 

156 




EXTERIOR OK A CLIMBER'S HUT. 




INTKKIOK OK A CUMIJKK'S HUT. 



To face p. 157. 



WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES 

increasing darkness of the night, which scarcely 
allowed them to distinguish the crevasses. After half 
an hour they set foot on terra firma at the moraine 
above the Alp of Vigne, where they perceived at no 
great distance a light, towards which they quickly 
directed their steps. The shepherd, named Dazza 
Dionigi, received them kindly, and lodged them for the 
night. Until they arrived at the Alp, both the ladies 
and the guide believed that they had made the pass of 
the Lys-Joch, and that they were now upon an Alp of 
Gressonay. It was, therefore, not without astonish- 
ment that they learned from the shepherd that, 
instead of this, they were at the head of the Val 
Sesia, and that they had accomplished the descent 
of the formidable Sesia-Joch." 

As an accompaniment to the foregoing highly- 
coloured narrative, the following modest notes, sent 
to The Alpine Journal by the Misses Pigeon, will 
be read with interest : 

" All mountaineers are aware how much the diffi- 
culty of a pass is lessened or increased by the state 
of the weather. In this we were greatly favoured. 
For some days it had been very cold and wet at the 
RifTel ; and when we crossed the Sesia-Joch we found 
sufficient snow in descending the ice-slope to give 
foothold, which decreased the labour of cutting steps 

157 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the axe was only brought into requisition whenever 
we traversed to right or left. Had the weather been 
very hot we should have been troubled with rolling 
stones. It was one of those clear, bright mornings 
so favourable for mountain excursions. Our guide 
had only once before crossed the Lys-Joch, four years 
previously, and on a very misty day. We were, 
therefore, careful to engage a porter who professed to 
know the way. The latter proved of no use what- 
ever except to carry a knapsack. 

"We take the blame to ourselves of missing the 
Lys-Joch ; for, on making the discovery of the porter's 
ignorance, we turned to Balls Gtiide Book, and re- 
peatedly translated to Martin a passage we found 
there, warning travellers to avoid keeping too much to 
the right near the Lyskamm. The result of our inter- 
ference was that Martin kept too much to the left, 
and missed the Lys-Joch altogether. 

" When we perceived the abrupt termination of 
the actual Col, we all ascended, with the aid of 
step-cutting, along the slope of the Parrot-Spitze, 
until we came to a place where a descent seemed 
feasible. Martin searched for a better passage, 
but, after all, we took to the ice-slope, at first, for 
a little way, keeping on the rocks. Finding the 
slope so very rapid, we doubted whether we could 

158 



WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES 

be right in descending it ; for we remembered that 
the descent of the Lys-Joch is described by Mr 
Ball as easy. We therefore retraced our steps 
up the slope to our former halting-place, thus 
losing considerable time, for it was now twelve 
o'clock. Then it was that Martin explored the 
Parrot-Spitze still further, and returned in three- 
quarters of an hour fully persuaded that there 
was no other way. We re-descended the ice- 
slope, and lower down crossed a couloir, and then 
more snow-slopes and rocks brought us to a lower 
series of rocks, where our passage seemed stopped 
at five o'clock. Here the mists, which had risen 
since the morning, much impeded our progress, and 
we halted, hoping they would disperse. Martin 
again went off on an exploring expedition, whilst 
the porter was sent in another direction. As both 
returned from a fruitless search, and sunset was 
approaching, the uncomfortable suggestion was 
made that the next search would be for the best 
sleeping quarters. However, Martin himself in- 
vestigated the rocks pronounced impracticable by 
the porter, and by these we descended to the 
Sesia Glacier without unusual difficulty. When 
once fairly on the glacier, we crossed it at a run- 
ning pace, for it was getting dark, and we feared 

159 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

to be benighted on the glacier. It was dark as we 
scrambled along the moraine on the other side, 
and over rocks and grassy knolls till the shepherd's 
light at Vigne gave us a happy indication that a 
shelter was not far off. The shouts of our guide 
brought the shepherd with his oil-lamp to meet 
us, and it was a quarter to nine o'clock P.M. when 
we entered his hut. After partaking of a frugal 
meal of bread and milk, we were glad to accept 
his offer of a hay bed, together with the unex- 
pected luxury of sheets. When relating the story 
of our arrival to the Abbe Farinetti on the follow- 
ing Sunday at Alagna, the shepherd said that so 
great was his astonishment at the sudden appari- 
tion of travellers from that direction, that he 
thought it must be a visit of angels. 

"We consider the Italian account incorrect as to 
the time we occupied in the descent. We could not 
have left our halting-place near the summit for the 
second time before a quarter to one o'clock, and in 
eight hours we were in this shepherd's hut. 

"The Italian account exaggerates the difficulty 
we experienced. The rope was never used ' to 
hold up the travellers and let them down one by 
one.' On the contrary, one lady went last, pre- 
ferring to see the awkward porter in front of her 

160 



WONDERFUL FEAT BY TWO LADIES 

rather than behind. At one spot we came to an 
abrupt wall of rock and there we gladly availed 
ourselves of our guide's hand. The sensational 
sentence about 'rolling as shapeless corpses into 
the crevasses' is absurd, as we were at that junc- 
ture rejoicing in the prospect of a happy termina- 
tion of our dilemma, and of crossing the glacier in 
full enjoyment of our senses." 

The editor of The Alpine Journal concludes with 
the following comments : 

"It is impossible to pass over without some 
further remark the behaviour of the guide and 
porter who shared this adventure. Jean Martin, 
if he led his party into a scrape, certainly showed 
no small skill and perseverance in carrying them 
safely out of it. Porters have as a class, and with 
some honourable exceptions, long afforded a proof 
that Swiss peasants are not necessarily born 
climbers. Their difficulties and blunders have, 
indeed, served as one of the standing jokes of 
Alpine literature. But we doubt if any porter has 
ever exhibited himself in so ignoble a position as 
the man who, having begun by obtaining an en- 
gagement under false pretences, ended by allowing 
one of his employers, a lady, to descend the Italian 

side of the Sesia-Joch last on the rope." 
L 161 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

A PERILOUS CLIMB 

In the year 1865 but few different routes were 
known up Mont Blanc. It has now been ascended 
from every direction and by every conceivable com 
bination of routes, yet I doubt if any at all rivalling 
the one I intend quoting the account of has ever 
been accomplished. The route in question is by the 
Brenva Glacier on the Italian side of the great 
mountain, and the travellers who undertook to 
attempt what the guides hardly thought a possible 
piece of work, consisted of Mr Walker, his son 
Horace, Mr Mathews, and Mr Moore, the account 
which I take from The Alpine Journal having been 
written by the latter. For guides they had two very 
first-rate men, Melchior Anderegg and his cousin, 
Jacob Anderegg. 

I shall omit the first part of the narrative, interest- 
ing though it is, and go at once to the point where, 
not long after sunrise, the mountaineers found them- 
selves. 

" We had risen very rapidly, and must have been 
at an elevation of more than 1 2,000 feet. Our posi- 
tion, therefore, commanded an extensive view in all 
directions. The guides were in a hurry, so cutting 

our halt shorter than would have been agreeable, we 

162 



A PERILOUS CLIMB 

resumed our way at 7.55, and after a few steps up a 
slope at an angle of 50, found ourselves on the crest 
of the buttress, and looking down upon, and across, 
the lower part of a glacier tributary to the Brenva, 
beyond which towered the grand wall of the Mont 
Maud it. We turned sharp to the left along the 
ridge, Jacob leading, followed by Mr Walker, Horace, 
Mathews, Melchior, and myself last. We had antici- 
pated that, assuming the possibility of gaining the 
ridge on which we were, there would be no serious 
difficulty in traversing it, and so much as we could see 
ahead led us to hope that our anticipations would 
turn out correct. Before us lay a narrow but not 
steep arete of rock and snow combined, which 
appeared to terminate some distance in front in 
a sharp peak. We advanced cautiously, keeping 
rather below the top of the ridge, speculating with 
some curiosity on what lay beyond this peak. On 
reaching it, the apparent peak proved not to be a 
peak at all, but the extremity of the narrowest and 
most formidable ice arete I ever saw, which extended 
almost on a level for an uncomfortably long distance. 
Looking back by the light of our subsequent success, 
I have always considered it a providential circum- 
stance that, at this moment, Jacob, and not Melchior 
was leading the party. In saying this, I shall not 

163 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

for an instant be suspected of any imputation upon 
Melchior's courage. But in him that virtue is com- 
bined to perfection with the equally necessary one 
of prudence, while he shares the objection which 
nearly all guides have to taking upon themselves, 
without discussion, responsibility in positions of 
doubt. Had he been in front, I believe that, on 
seeing the nature of the work before us, we should 
have halted and discussed the propriety of proceed- 
ing ; and I believe further that, as the result of that 
discussion, our expedition would have then and 
there come to an end. Now in Jacob, with courage 
as faultless as Melchior's, and physical powers even 
superior, the virtue of prudence is conspicuous chiefly 
from its absence ; and, on coming to this ugly place, 
it never for an instant occurred to him that we might 
object to go on, or consider the object in view not 
worth the risk which must be inevitably run. He 
therefore went calmly on without so much as turning 
to see what we thought of it, while I do not suppose 
that it entered into the head of any one of us spon- 
taneously to suggest a retreat. 

" On most aretes, however narrow the actual crest 
may be, it is generally possible to get a certain 
amount of support by driving the pole into the slope 
on either side. But this was not the case here. We 



A PERILOUS CLIMB 

were on the top of a wall, the ice on the right falling 
vertically (I use the word advisedly), and on the left 
nearly so. On neither side was it possible to obtain 
the slightest hold with the alpenstock. I believe also 
that an arete of pure ice is more often encountered 
in description than in reality, that term being 
generally applied to hard snow. But here, for once, 
we had the genuine article, blue ice without a speck 
of snow on it The space for walking was, at first, 
about the breadth of an ordinary wall, in which Jacob 
cut holes for the feet Being last in the line I could 
see little of what was coming until I was close upon 
it, and was therefore considerably startled on seeing 
the men in front suddenly abandon the upright 
position, which in spite of the insecurity of the steps 
and difficulty of preserving the balance, had been 
hitherto maintained, and sit down a cheval. The 
ridge had narrowed to a knife edge, and for a few 
yards it was utterly impossible to advance in any 
other way. The foremost men soon stood up again, 
but when I was about to follow their example 
Melchior insisted emphatically upon my not doing 
so, but remaining seated. Regular steps could no 
longer be cut, but Jacob, as he went along, simply 
sliced off the top of the ridge, making thus a slippery 
pathway, along which those behind crept, moving one 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

foot carefully after the other. As for me, I worked 
myself along with my hands in an attitude safer, 
perhaps, but considerably more uncomfortable, and, 
as I went, could not keep occasionally speculating, 
with an odd feeling of amusement, as to what would 
be the result if any of the party should chance to 
slip over on either side what the rest would do 
whether throw themselves over on the other side or 
not and if so, what would happen then. For- 
tunately the occasion for the solution of this curi- 
ous problem did not arise, and at 9.30 we reached 
the end of the arete, where it emerged in the long 
slopes of broken neve, over which our way was next 
to lie. As we looked back along our perilous path, 
it was hard to repress a shudder, and I think the 
dominant feeling of every man was one of wonder 
how the passage had been effected without accident. 
One good result, however, was to banish from 
Melchior's mind the last traces of doubt as to our 
ultimate success, his reply to our anxious enquiry 
whether he thought we should get up, being, 'We 
must, for we cannot go back.' In thus speaking, he 
probably said rather more than he meant, but the 
fact will serve to show that I have not exaggerated 
the difficulty we had overcome." 

Mr Moore goes on to describe the considerable 
166 



A PERILOUS CLIMB 

trouble the party had in mounting the extremely 
steep snow-slope on which they were now embarked. 
The continual step-cutting was heavy work for the 
guides. At last they were much annoyed to find 
between them and their goal "a great wall of ice 
running right across and completely barring the way 
upwards. Our position was, in fact, rather critical. 
Immediately over our heads the slope on which we 
were, terminated in a great mass of broken se'racs y 
which might come down with a run at any moment. 
It seemed improbable that any way out of our difficul- 
ties would be found in that quarter. But, where else 
to look ? There was no use in going to the left to 
the right we could not go and back we would not go. 
After careful scrutiny, Melchior thought it just 
possible that we might find a passage through those 
seracs on the higher and more level portion of the 
glacier to the right of them, and there being obviously 
no chance of success in any other direction, we turned 
towards them. The ice here was steeper and harder 
than it had yet been. In spite of all Melchior's care, 
the steps were painfully insecure, and we were glad to 
get a grip with one hand of the rocks alongside of 
which we passed. The risk, too, of an avalanche was 
considerable, and it was a relief when we were so 
close under the seracs that a fall from above could 

167 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

not well hurt us. Melchior had steered with his usual 
discrimination, and was now attacking the seracs at 
the only point where they appeared at all practical. 
Standing over the mouth of a crevasse choked with 
debris, he endeavoured to lift himself on to its upper 
edge, which was about 15 feet above. But to 
accomplish this seemed at first a task too great even 
for his agility, aided as it was by vigorous pushes. 
At last, by a marvellous exercise of skill and activity, 
he succeeded, pulled up Mr Walker and Horace, and 
then cast off the rope to reconnoitre, leaving them to 
assist Mathews, Jacob and myself in the performance 
of a similar manoeuvre. We were all three still below, 
when a yell from Melchior sent a thrill through our 
veins. ' What is it ? ' said we to Mr Walker. A 
shouting communication took place between him and 
Melchior, and then came the answer, ' He says it is 
all right.' That moment was worth living for." 

Mr Moore tells how, over now easy ground, the 
party rapidly ascended higher and higher. "We 
reached the summit at 3.10, and found ourselves safe 
at Chamouni at 10.30. Our day's work had thus 
extended to nearly 20 hours, of which i?J hours 
were actual walking." 

It is interesting to note that in after years a 

route was discovered on the opposite, or French side 

168 



A PERILOUS CLIMB 

of Mont Blanc, of which the chief difficulty was 
an extremely narrow but in this case also steep 
ice ridge. This ascent, via the Aiguille de Bion- 
nassay, enjoys, I believe, an even greater reputation 
than that by the Brenva. It has been accomplished 
twice by ladies, the first time by Miss Katherine 
Richardson, whose skill and extraordinary rapidity of 
pace have given her a record on more than one great 
peak. Miss Richardson, having done all the hard 
part of the climb, descended from the Dome de 
Gouter. The second ascent by a lady was under- 
taken successfully in 1899, by Mademoiselle Eugenie 
de Rochat, who has a brilliant list of climbs in the 
Mont Blanc district to her credit. 



CHAPTER XV 

A FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 



*T^HE precipitous peak of the Meije, in Dauphine,, 
had long, like the Matterhorn, been believed 
inaccessible, and it was only after repeated attempts 
that at last the summit was reached. The direct 
route from La Berarde will always be an extremely 
difficult climb to anyone who desires to do his fair 
share of the work ; the descent of the great wall of 
rock is one of the few places I have been down, 
which took longer on the descent than on the ascent 
When the members of the Alpine Club heard that 
a party of Englishmen had succeeded, without guides, 
in making the expedition, they were much impressed 
by the feat, and on I7th December 1879, one of 
the climbers, Mr Charles Pilkington, read a paper 
before the Club describing his ascent. From it I 
quote the following. The party included the brothers 
Pilkington and Mr Gardiner. 

"On the i Qth July 1878, we reached La Berarde, 
170 




The Meije is to the left, the Glacier Carre is the snow-patch on it, beneath this is the Great Wall. 



i^1$i^JBBJ 






ASCENDING A SNOWY WALL (page 216). 



To face p. 171. 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

where we found Mr Coolidge with the two Aimers. 
Coolidge knew that we had come to try the Meije, 
and he had very kindly given us all the information 
he could, not only about it, but about several other 
peaks and passes in the district. Aimer also, after 
finding out our plans, was good enough not to laugh 
at us, and gave us one or two useful hints. He told 
us as well that the difficulty did not so much consist 
in finding the way as in getting up it. 

" At two o'clock in the afternoon of 2Oth July, we 
left for our bivouac in the Vallon des Etancons, taking 
another man with us besides our two porters, and at 
four reached the large square rock called the H6tel 
Chateleret, after the ancient name of the valley. 
We determined to sleep here instead of at Coolidge's 
refuge a little higher up. The Meije was in full 
view, and we had our first good look at it since we 
had read the account of its ascent. 

" We went hopefully to bed, telling our porters to 
call us at eleven the same evening, so as to atart at 
midnight ; but long before that it was raining hard, 
and it required all the engineering skill of the party 
and the india-rubber bag to keep the water out. It 
cleared up at daybreak. Of course it was far too late 
to start then ; besides that, we had agreed not to make 
the attempt unless we had every sign of fine weather, 

171 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

"As we had nothing else to do, we started at 
8 A.M. on an exploring expedition, taking our spare 
ropes and some extra provisions, to leave, if possible, 
at M. Duhamel's cairn, some distance up the moun- 
tain, whilst our porters were to improve the refuge 
and lay in a stock of firewood. The snow was very 
soft, and we were rather lazy, so it was not until 
eleven that we reached the upper part of the Breche 
Glacier, and were opposite our work. The way lies 
up the great southern buttress, which forms the 
eastern boundary of the Breche Glacier, merging into 
the general face of the mountain about one-third of 
the total height from the Glacier des Etancons, 
and 700 feet below, and a little to the west of the 
Glacier Carr6, from whence the final peak is climbed. 
The chief difficulty is the ascent from M. Duhamel's 
cairn, on the top of the buttress to the Glacier 
Carre. 

" After a few [steps up the snow, we gained the 
crest of the buttress by a short scramble. The crest 
is narrow, but very easy, and we went rapidly along, 
until we came to where a great break in the arete 
divides the buttress into an upper and a lower part ; 
being no longer able to keep along the crest, we were 
forced to cross the rocks to our left to the couloir. 

Not quite liking the look of the snow, Gardiner asked 

172 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

us to hold tight whilst he tried it. Finding it all 
right he kicked steps up, and at five minutes past 
one we reached the cairn, having taken one hour and 
thirty-five minutes from the glacier. The great wall 
rose straight above us, but the way up, which we had 
had no difficulty in making out with the telescope 
from below, was no longer to be seen. Our spirits 
which had been rising during our ascent from the 
glacier, sunk once more, and our former uncertainty 
came back upon us ; for it is difficult to imagine any- 
thing more hopeless-looking than this face of the 
Meije. It has been said that, after finding all the 
most promising ways impossible, this seeming im- 
possibility was tried as a last chance. We looked 
at it a long time, but at last gave up trying to make 
out the way as a bad job, determined to climb where 
we could, if we had luck enough to get so far another 
day ; so, leaving our spare ropes, a bottle of wine, a 
loaf of bread, and a tin of curried fowl carefully 
covered with stones, we made the best of our way 
back, reaching the glacier in one hour and twenty 
minutes, and our bivouac in an hour and a half more. 
There we spent the next night and following day, 
but at last we had to give in to the bad weather, and 
go sorrowfully down to La B6rarde. It was very 
disappointing. We had been looking forward to the 

173 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

attempt for more than six months. I had to leave 
in a few days for England. It was not a mountain 
for two men to be on alone ; what if we had spent all 
our time and trouble for nothing, and only carried our 
bed and provisions to the cairn for someone else to 
use ? 

" On the evening of the 24th we were again at our 
bivouac ; this time there was a cold north wind blow- 
ing, and the weather looked more settled than it had 
yet done since we came into the district. We watched 
the last glow of the setting sun fade on the crags of 
the Meije, and then crawled into our now well-known 
holes. At midnight exactly we were off, and, as we 
had much to carry, we took our porters with us as 
far as the bottom of the buttress, where we waited for 
daylight. At last the Tete du Replat opposite to 
us caught the reflection of the light, so, leaving a 
bottle of champagne for our return, as a reward of 
victory or consolation for defeat, we started at 3.15, 
unfortunately with an omen, for in bidding good-bye 
to our porters, we said * adieu,' instead of ' au revoir, 
and though we altered the word at once, they left us 
with grave faces, old Lagier mournfully shaking his 
head. Gardiner took the lead again, and at 4.45 we 
once more stood beside the stone-man, finding our 
cdche of provisions all safe. Here we rearranged our 

174 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

luggage. Both the others took heavy loads ; Gardi- 
ner the knapsack, Lawrence the 200 feet of spare 
rope and our wine tin, holding three quarts ; the 
sleeping bag only was given to me, as I was told off 
to lead. 

"We got under weigh at 5.15, and soon clambered 
up the remaining part of the buttress, and reached 
the bottom of the great wall, the Glacier Carre being 
about 700 feet above us, and some distance to our 
right. We knew that from here a level traverse had 
to be made until nearly under the glacier before it 
was possible to turn upwards. We had seen a ledge 
running in the right direction ; crossing some steep 
rocks and climbing over a projecting knob (which 
served us a nasty trick on our descent), we let our- 
selves gently down on to the ledge, leaving a small 
piece of red rag to guide us in coming back. The 
ledge, although 4 or 5 feet broad, was not all that 
could be wished, for it was more than half-covered 
with snow, which, as the ledge sloped outwards, was 
not to be trusted ; the melting and refreezing of this 
had formed ice below, nearly covering the available 
space, forcing us to walk on the edge. We cut a 
step here and there. It improved as we went on, 
and when half-way across the face we were able to 
turn slightly upwards, and at 6.30 were near the 

175 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

spot where later in the day the icicles from the 
extreme western end of the Glacier Carre fall. It is 
not necessary to go right into the line of fire, and in 
coming back we kept even further away than on the 
ascent. 

" So far the way had been fairly easy to find, but 
now came the great question of the climb ; how to 
get up the 600 feet of rock wall above us. To our 
right it rose in one sheer face, the icicles from the 
Glacier Carre, fringing the top ; to our left the rocks, 
though not so steep, were very smooth, and at the 
top, especially to the right, near the glacier, they 
became precipitous. A little above us a bridge 
ledge led away to the left, slanting upwards towards 
the lowest and most practicable part of the wall, 
obviously the way up. Climbing to this ledge, we 
followed it nearly half-way back across the face, then 
the holding-places got fewer and more filled with 
ice, the outward slope more and more until at last 
its insecure and slippery look warned us off it, and 
we turned up the steeper but rougher rocks ? on our 
right. In doing so I believe we forsook the route 
followed by all our predecessors, but we were obliged 
to do so by the glazed state of the rocks. 

" As the direction in which we were now goingVas 

taking us towards the glacier and the steep upper 

176 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

rocks, we soon turned again to our left to avoid them, 
the only way being up some smooth slabs, with very 
little hold, the sort of rocks where one's waiscoat 
gives a great deal of holding power ; worming one- 
self up these we reached a small shelf where we were 
again in doubt. It was impossible to go straight up ; 
to the left the rocks, though easier, only led to the 
higher part of the ledge we had forsaken ; we spent 
some minutes examining this way, but again did not 
like the look of the glazed rocks ; so we took the 
only alternative and went to the right. Keeping 
slightly upwards, we gained about 50 feet in actual 
height by difficult climbing. We were now getting 
on to the steep upper rocks near the glacier, which 
we had wanted to avoid. 

" This last piece of the wall will always remain in 
our minds as the most desperate piece of work we 
have ever done ; the rocks so far had been firm, but 
now, although far too steep for loose stones to lodge 
on, were so shattered that we dared not trust them ; 
at the same time we had to be very careful, lest in 
removing any we should bring others down upon 
us. 

" One place I shall never forget Gardiner was 
below, on a small ledge, with no hand-hold to speak 
of, trying to look as if he could stand any pull ; my 
M 177 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

brother on a knob a little higher up, to help me if 
necessary. I was able to pull myself about 8 feet 
higher, but the next rock was insecure, and the whole 
nearly perpendicular. A good many loose stones 
had been already pulled out ; this one would not 
come. It is hard work tugging at a loose stone 
with one hand, the other in a crack, and only one 
foot finding anything to rest on. I looked down, 
told them how it was, and came down to rest. 

" For about a minute nothing was said ; all our 
faces turned towards the Glacier Carre, now only about 
60 feet above us. We all felt it would have been 
hard indeed to turn back, yet it was not a pleasant 
place, and we could not see what was again above. 
We were on what may be fairly called a precipice. 
In removing the loose stones, the slightest back- 
handed jerk, just enough to miss the heads of the 
men behind, sent them clear into the air ; they 
never touched anything for a long time after 
leaving the hand, and disappeared with a disagree- 
able hum on to the Glacier des Etancons, 1800 feet 
below. We looked and tried on both sides, but it 
was useless, so we went at it again. After the fourth 
or fifth attempt I managed to get up about 10 feet, 
to where there was some sort of hold ; then my 
brother followed, giving me rope enough to get to a 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

firm rock, where I remained till joined by the othe rs 
It was almost as bad above, but we crawled carefully 
up ; one place actually overhung fortunately there 
was plenty of hold, and we slung ourselves up it ! 
From this point the rocks became rather easier, and 
at 9.30 we reached a small sloping shelf of rock, 
about 20 yards to the west of the Glacier Carre and 
on the top of the great rock wall. Stopping here for 
a short time to get cool, and to let one of the party 
down to get the axes, which had been tied to a rope 
and had caught in a crevice in the rock, we changed 
leaders, and crossing some shelving rocks, climbed up 
a gully, or cleft, filled with icicles, and reached the 
platform of rock at the south-west end of the Glacier 
Carre at 10.15 A.M. 

" The platform we had reached can only be called 
one by comparison ; it is rather smooth, and slopes 
too much to form a safe sleeping-place, but we left 
our extra luggage there. 

"At i i.i o we started up the glacier, Gardiner going 
ahead, kicking steps into the soft, steep snow. 

"We were much more cheerful now than we had 
been two hours before. My companions had got rid 
of their heavy loads, the day was still very fine, and 
Aimer had told us that, could we but reach the 

.glacier, we should have a good chance of success. 

179 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Shortly before I P.M. we were underneath the well- 
known overhanging top, the rocks of which, cut- 
ting across the face, form a triangular corner. It 
is the spot where Gaspard lost so much time looking 
for the way on the first ascent. We knew that the 
arete had here to be crossed, and the northern face 
on the other side taken to. 

" Almost before I got my head over the crest came 
the anxious question from below, * Will it go on the 
other side ? ' I could not see, however ; so when the 
others came up, Gardiner fixed himself and let us 
down to the full extent of the rope. The whole 
northern face, as far as we could see, looked terribly 
icy ; but as there was no other way of regaining the 
arete higher up without going on to it, we told him to 
come down after us. 

" Turning to the right as soon as possible, we had 
to traverse the steep, smooth face for a short distance, 
It took a long time, for the rocks were even worse 
than they had appeared ; we often had to clear them 
of ice for a yard before we could find any hold at all 
and sometimes only the left hand could be spared for 
cutting. After about 50 yards of this work we were 
able to turn upwards, and with great difficulty 
wriggled up the slippery rocks leading to the arete ; 

rather disgusted to find the north face so difficult 

1 80 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

owing, perhaps, to the lateness of the 
season. 

" It was our last difficulty, for the arete, though 
narrow, gives good hand and foot-hold, and we 
pressed eagerly onwards. In a few minutes it be- 
came more level, and there, sure enough, were the 
three stone-men, only separated from us by some 
easy rocks and snow, which we went at with a 
rush, and at 2.25 we stood on the highest point 
of the Meije. 

" Knowing that it would be useless for us to try 
and descend further than the Glacier Carre that 
day, and as it was pleasanter on the top than 
there, we went in for a long halt. Untying the 
rope for the top is broad enough to be safe 
we examined the central cairn, where the tokens 
are kept. We found a tin box, containing the 
names of our predecessors ; a bottle, hanging by 
a string, the property of Mr Coolidge ; a tri-col- 
oured flag ; and a scented pocket-handkerchief 
belonging to M. Guillemin, still retaining its former 
fragrance, which it had not ' wasted on the desert 
air/ We tore a corner off each, leaving a red- 
and-yellow rag in exchange; put our names in 
the tin, and an English penny with a hole bored 
through it. 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Then, after repairing the rather dilapidated 
southern cairn, we sat down to smoke and enjoy 
the view, which the fact of the mountain standing 
on the outside of the group, the tremendous depth 
to which the eye plunges on each side, the ex- 
pansive panorama of the Dauphine and neigh- 
bouring Alps, and the beautiful distant view of 
the Pennine chain from Mont Blanc to Monte 
Rosa, combine to make one of the finest in the 
Alps. 

" At four o'clock, after an hour and a half on the 
top, we started downwards, soon arriving at the 
spot where it was necessary to leave the arete ; 
however, before doing so, we went along it to 
where it was cut off, to see if we could let ourselves 
straight down into the gap, and so avoid the detour 
by the northern face, but it was impracticable ; so, 
putting the middle of the spare rope round a pro- 
jecting rock on the arete, we let ourselves down 
to where we had gone along on the level, pulling 
the rope down after us ; then regaining the gap 
by the morning's route, we crossed it, and leisurely 
descended the south-western face to the Glacier 
Carr, filling our now empty wine tin with water 
on the way down. We reached the glacier at 6.30. 

In skirting the base of the Pic du Glacier we found 

182 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

a nice hollow in the snow, which looked a 
good place to sleep in. Gardiner wanted one of 
us to stop and build a stone-wall, whilst the 
others fetched the bag and provisions from the 
bottom of the glacier. Lawrence was neutral ; 
I was rather against it, having slept on snow 
before. At last we all went down to the 
rocky platform where our luggage had been left. 
We cleared a place for the bag, but it all sloped 
so much, and the edge of the precipice was so near, 
that we dared not lie down. We looked for a 
good rock to tie ourselves to ; even that could not 
be found. Then some one thought we might 
scrape a hole in the steep snow above us, and get 
into it. That, of course, was quite out of the 
question. Nothing therefore remained for us but 
Gardiner's hollow above the only level place we 
had seen above M. Duhamel's cairn large enough 
for us to lay our bag on. There was no time to 
be lost ; it was getting dark ; a sharp frost had 
already set in : so we at once shouldered our 
traps and trudged wearily up the glacier once 
more, wishing now that we had left somebody to 
build a wall. 

" On reaching the hollow we put the ropes, axes, 
hats, and knapsack on the snow as a sort of car- 

183 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

pet, placed the bag on the top, then, pulling off 
our boots for pillows, and putting on the comfort- 
able woollen helmets given to us by Mrs Hartley, 
got into the bag to have our supper. Fortunately 
there was not much wind ; but it was rather diffi- 
cult to open the meat tin. We did as well as we 
could, however, and after supper tried to smoke ; 
but the cold air got into the bag and made that a 
failure ; so we looked at the scene instead. 

"The moon was half full, and shone upon us as 
we lay, making everything look very beautiful. 
We could see the snow just in front of us, and 
then, far away through the frosty air all the moun- 
tains on the other side of the Vallon des Etangons, 
with the silver-grey peak of the Ecrins behind, its icy 
ridges standing out sharply against the clear sky ; 
and deep down in the dark valley below was the 
signal fire of our porters. As this could only be 
seen by sitting bolt upright, we got tired of looking 
at it, and the last link connecting us with the lower 
world being broken, we felt our utter loneliness. 

" The moon soon going behind a rocky spur of the 
Pic du Glacier, we lay down and tried to get warm 
by pulling the string round the neck of the bag as 
tight as possible and breathing inside ; but somehow 
the outside air got in also. So closing it as well as 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

we could, with only our heads out, we went to sleep, 
but not for long. The side on which we lay soon got 
-chilled. Now, as the bag was narrow, we all had to 
face one way on account of our knees ; so the one who 
happened to be the soonest chilled through would give 
the word, and we all turned together. I suppose we 
must have changed sides every half-hour through the 
long night. We got some sleep, however, and felt all 
right when the first glimmering of dawn came over 
the mountains on our left As soon as we could see 
we had breakfast ; but the curried fowl was frozen, 
and the bread could only be cut with difficulty, as 
^i shivering seized one every minute. We had the 
greatest trouble in getting our boots on. They were 
pressed out of shape, and, in spite of having been under 
our heads, were hard frozen. At last, by burning paper 
inside, and using them as lantern for our candle, we 
thawed them enough to get them on, and then spent 
a, quarter of an hour stamping about to thaw ourselves. 
We rolled the bag up and tied it fast to a projecting 
rock, hanging the meat tin near as a guide to anyone 
looking for it. 

" At 4.30 we set off, very thankful that we had a 
fine day before us. We soon went down the glacier, 
and down and across to the shelf of rock where the 

real descent of the wall was to begin. A few feet 

185 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

below was a jagged tooth of rock which we could not 
move ; so to it we tied one end of the 100 feet of 
rope, taking care to protect the rope where it pressed 
on the sharp edges, with pieces of an old handker- 
chief ; the other end we threw over the edge, and by 
leaning over we could just see the tail of it on some 
rocks below the bad part, 1 so we knew it was long 
enough. 

" After a short discussion we arranged to go down 
one at a time, as there were places where we ex- 
pected to throw all our weight on the rope. Gardiner 
was to go first as he was the heaviest ; my brother 
next, carrying all the traps and the three axes, as he 
had the strongest pair of hands and arms in the 
party ; whilst I as the lightest, was to bring down 
the rear. So tying the climbing rope round his 
waist as an extra help, Gardiner started, whilst we 
paid it out. He soon disappeared, but we knew 
how he was getting on, and when he was in the 
worst places, by the * Lower,' ' A little lower/ * Hold,' 
1 Hold hard,' which came up from below, getting 
fainter as he got lower. Fifty feet of the rope passed 

1 The remains of this rope hung for years where Mr Pilking- 
ton had placed it, and when I ascended the Meije I saw the 
bleached end of it hanging over as sickening looking a place as 
I have ever desired to avoid. The ordinary route passes more 
to the west. 

1 86 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

through our hands before he stopped going. ' Can you 
hold there ? ' we asked. ' No. Hold me while I rest 
a little, and then give me 10 feet more if you can/ 
So after a while we got notice to lower, and down he 
went again until nearly all our rope was gone ; then 
it slackened. He told us he was fast, and that we 
could pull up the rope. 

" Then Lawrence shouldered his burdens, the three 
axes being tied below him with a short piece of rope. 
The same thing happened again, only it was more 
exciting, for every now and then the axes caught and 
loosened with a jerk, which I felt on the rope I was 
paying out, although it was tied to him. At first 
I thought it was a slip, but soon got used to it. 
Lawrence did not go so far as Gardiner, but stopped 
to help me at the bottom of the worst piece. 

"It was now my turn. Tying the other end of the 
loose rope round me, I crawled cautiously down to 
where the tight rope was fixed. The others told me 
afterwards they did not like it. I certainly did not. 
The upper part was all right ; but lower down the 
rocks were so steep that if I put much weight on the 
rope it pulled me off them, and gave a tendency to 
swing over towards the Glacier Carr, which, as only 
one hand was left for climbing with, was rather diffi- 
cult to resist. I remember very well sitting on a 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

projecting rock, with nothing below it but air for at 
least 100 feet. Leaving this, Lawrence half pulled 
me towards him with the loose rope. A few steps 
more and I was beside him, and we descended to- 
gether to Gardiner, cutting ofT the fixed rope high 
up, so as to leave as little as possible, and in a 
few minutes more we all three reached the small 
shelf of rocks above the smooth slabs by which we 
had descended the day before. It was the place 
where we had spent some time trying to avoid the 
steep bit we had just descended, and which had 
taken us nearly two hours. 

" This ledge is about 3 feet broad. We had got 
down the only place on the mountain that had given 
us any anxiety. It was warm and pleasant ; all the 
day was before us ; so we took more than an hour to 
lunch and rest. 

" On starting again we ought to have stuck to our 
old route and descended by the slabs, as we could 
easily have done ; but after a brief discussion we 
arranged to take a short cut, by fixing a second rope 
and letting ourselves straight down the drop on to 
the lower slanting ledge, at a point a few feet higher 
than where we had left it on the ascent. 

" We descended one at a time, as before, and, what 

with tying and untying, took much longer than we 

1 88 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

should have done had we gone the other way. On 
gaining the ledge we turned to our left and soon 
came across one of our marks ; then striking down 
sooner than our old route would have taken us, we 
gave a wider berth to the falling ice, and got into 
the traverse leading to the top of the buttress. 
Along it we went ; but it looked different, had less 
snow, and when we came near the end a steep rock, 
with a nasty drop below, blocked the way. It 
appeared so bad that I said we were wrong. As 
the others were not sure, we retraced our steps, and 
by a very difficult descent gained a lower ledge. 
There was no snow on this, but the melting of the 
snow above made the rocks we had to take hold of 
so wet that we often got a stream of water down our 
arms and necks. 

"At last, after nearly crossing, it became quite 
impossible, and we turned back, having gained no- 
thing but a wetting. 

" Below it was far too steep. Immediately above 
was the place we had tried just before. We could 
not make it out; we had been so positive about 
the place above. 

"We were just thinking of trying it again more 
carefully, when Lawrence pointed up at something, 
and there, sure enough, was the bit of red rag left 

189 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the day before to show the commencement of the 
traverse. 

" We marked where it was, and then crawled back 
along the ledge on which we were. Scrambling up 
the steep drop, we made quickly upwards, and, 
turning towards our flag, found that the only way 
to it was along the very ledge where we had first 
tried, and which proved to be the traverse after all. 

" We were very glad to get into it once more, as 
for the last three hours we had been on the look-out 
for falling ice. Some had already shot over our 
heads, sending showers of splinters on to us, and 
one piece as big as one's fist had come rather closer 
than was pleasant. On our left, the Glacier Carr 
kept up a regular fire of it, the ice following with 
tremendous noise on to the rocks below. Every 
time it gave us a start, as we could not always see at 
once where the fall had taken place; and although 
the danger was more imaginary than real, it is not 
pleasant to be constantly on the look-out, and 
flattening one's self against the rocks to avoid being 
hit 

" We soon crossed the snowy part of the traverse, 
and were again in front of the rock which had turned 
us back before. It looked no better ; but on going 

close up we found a small crack near the top, just 

190 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

large enough to get our fingers into, giving excellent 
hold. By this we swung ourselves up and across the 
worst part. 

" We thought we had only two hours more easy 
descent, and our work would be done. But we 
made a mistake. 

" At first we went rapidly down, and were soon 
cheered by the sight of M. DuhameFs cairn, looking 
about five minutes off. I was in front at the time, 
and was just getting on to a short snow-slope by 
which we had ascended the day before, when, 
doubting its safety, I asked the others to hold fast 
whilst I tried it. The moment I put my foot on the 
snow, all the top went away, slowly at first, then, 
taking to the left, went down the couloir with a 
rush. We tried again where the upper layer had 
gone away, but it was all unsafe ; so we had to spend 
half an hour getting down the rocks, where we had 
ascended in ten minutes, and it was not until 2.30 
that we reached the cairn. 

" It was 3.30 before we continued the descent. The 
couloir was not in good order and required care. 
Gardiner, who was in front, did not get on as well as 
usual. At last, thinking we might get impatient, he 
showed us his fingers, which were bleeding in several 
places, and awfully raw and sore. He had pluckily 

191 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

kept it all to himself until the real difficulties were 
over ; but the snow of the couloir had softened his 
hands, and these last rocks were weathered granite, 
and very sharp and cutting ; so he had to go very 
gingerly. 

" At the bottom of the buttress a surprise awaited 
us, for as we descended the last 20 feet, the 
weather-beaten face of old Lagier, our porter, appeared 
above the rocks. The faithful old fellow said he 
had traced our descent by the occasional flashing of 
the wine tin in the sun, and had come alone to meet 
us, bringing us provisions as he thought we might 
have run short. He had waited six hours for us, and 
had iced the bottle of champagne which had been left 
on the ascent. We opened it and then hurried down 
to the glacier, taking off the rope at the moraine, and 
ran all the rest of the way on the snow to our bivouac, 
like a lot of colts turned loose in a field, feeling it a 
great relief to get on to something on which we could 
tumble about as we liked without falling over a 
precipice." 

That the Meije is a really difficult mountain may 
be assumed from the fact that for some years after 
its first ascent, no party succeeded in getting up and 
down it on the same day. When every step of the 
way became well known, of course much quicker 

192 



FINE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT GUIDES 

times were possible, and when, on i6th September 
1892, I went up it with the famous Dauphine guide, 
Maximin Gaspard, and Roman Imboden (the latter 
aged twenty-three, and perhaps the finest rock 
climber in Switzerland), we had all in our favour. 
There was neither ice nor snow on the rocks, and 
no icicles hung from the Glacier Carre, while the 
weather was still and cloudless. We slept at the 
bottom of the buttress just at the spot where Mr 
Pilkington met his porter and from here were 
exactly four hours (including a halt of one hour) 
reaching the top of the Meije. 

It is now the fashion to cross the Meije from La 
Berarde to La Grave, the descent on the other side 
being also extremely hard. For a couple of hours 
after leaving the summit a narrow ridge is traversed 
with several formidable gaps in it. 



193 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS THE 
FIRST ASCENT OF MONT BLANC BY A WOMAN. 

TT was a mad thing to do. I realised that when 
thinking of it afterwards; but this is how it 
happened. 

I had arranged with a friend, Mr Edmund 
Garwood, to try a hitherto unattempted route on 
a mountain not far from Maloja. He was to bring 
his guide, young Roman Imboden ; I was to 
furnish a second man, Wieland, of St Moritz. 

The v hour had come to start, the carriage was 
at the door and the provisions were in it, and 
Wieland and I were in readiness when, to our sur- 
prise, Roman turned up without Mr Garwood. A 
note which he brought explained that the latter 
was not well, but hoped I would make the expedi- 
tion all the same, and take Roman with me. I 
was unwilling to monopolise a new ascent, though 

probably only an easy one, so I refused to go till 

194 



PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS 

my friend was better, and asked the guides to 
suggest something else. The weather was lovely 
and our food ready, and it seemed a pity to 
waste either. 

Wieland could not think of a suitable climb, so I 
turned to Roman, who had only arrived at Pont- 
resina two days before, and asked him his ideas. 

He very sensibly inquired : " What peaks have 
you not done yet here, ma'am ? " 

"All but the Scerscen." 

" Then we go for the whatever you call it." 

"Oh, but Roman," I exclaimed, "the Scerscen 
is very difficult, and there is 3 feet of fresh snow 
on the mountains, and it is out of the question ! " 

" I don't believe any of these mountains are 
difficult," said Roman doggedly, with that con- 
tempt for all Engadine climbing shown by guides 
from the other side of Switzerland. 

" Ask Wieland," I suggested. 

Wieland smiled at the question, and said he did 
not at all mind going to look at the Scerscen, 
but, as to ascending it under the present conditions, 
of course it was absurd. 

" Besides," he added, " we are much too late to 
go to the Marinelli Hut to-day." 

"Why not do it from the Mortel Hut?" I re- 
195 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

marked, on the " in for a penny in for a pound " 
principle. 

He smiled again ; indeed, I think he laughed, and 
agreed that, as anyhow we could not go up the 
Scerscen, we might as well sleep at the Mortel Hut 
as anywhere else. 

" Have you ever been up it ? " Roman inquired. 

Wieland answered that he had not. Roman 
turned to me : " Can you find the mountain ? Should 
you know it if you saw it ? Don't let us go up the 
wrong one, ma'am ! " 

I promised to lead them to the foot of the peak, 
and Roman repeated his conviction that all Engadine 
mountains were perfectly easy, and that we should 
find ourselves on the top of the Scerscen next 
morning. However, he made no objection to 
taking an extra rope of 100 feet, and, telling one 
friend our plan in strictest confidence, we climbed 
into the carriage. 

We duly arrived at the Mortel Hut and were 
early in bed, as Roman wished us to set out at 
an early hour, or a late one, if I may thus allude 
to II P.M. He was still firmly convinced that to 
the top of the Scerscen we should go, and wanted 
every moment in hand, in spite of his recent 

criticisms of Engadine mountains. There was a 

196 



PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS 

very useful moon, and by its light we promised 
Roman to take him to the foot of the peak, where 
its rocky sides rise abruptly from the Scerscen 
Glacier. 

I must here explain that there are several 
ways up the Scerscen. I wished to ascend by 
the rocks on the south side, which, though harder, 
were safer than the other routes. As for the 
descent (if we got up!) we intended coming down 
the way we had ascended, little knowing not 
only that no one had been down by this route, 
but also that a party had attempted to get down 
it and had been driven back. As for finding our 
way up, some notes in the Alpine Journal were 
our only guide. The mountain had been pre- 
viously ascended but a few times altogether, and 
only, I think, once or twice by the south face. 
No lady had up till then tried it. 

We were off punctually at u P.M., and by the 
brilliant light of the moon made good time over the 
glacier and up the snow slopes leading to the Sella 
Pass. This we reached in three hours, without a pause, 
from the hut, and, making no halt there, immediately 
plunged into the softer snow on the Italian side, and 
began to skirt the precipices on our left. Even in 

midsummer, it was still dark at this early hour, and 

197 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

the moon had already set. A great rocky peak rose 
near us, and Wieland gave it as his opinion that it 
was the Scerscen. I differed from him, believing 
our mountain to be some distance farther, so it was 
mutually agreed that we should halt for food, after 
which we should have more light to enable us to 
determine our position. 

Gradually the warmth of dawn crept over the 
sky, and soon the beautiful spectacle of an Alpine 
sunrise was before us, with the wonderful "flush of 
adoration " on the mountain heads. There was no 
doubt now where we were ; our peak was some way 
beyond, and the only question was, how to go up 
it ? I repeated to Roman the information I had 
gleaned from the Journal, and he thanked me, doubt- 
less having his own ideas, which he intended alone 
to be guided by. Luckily, as we advanced the 
mountain became visible from base to summit, so 
that Roman could trace out his way up it as upon a 
map. We walked up the glacier to the foot of the 
mighty wall, and soon began to go up it, advancing 
for some time with fair,, rapidity, in spite of the fresh 
snow. After, perhaps, a couple of hours or so, we 
came to our first real difficulty. This was a tall, 
red cliff, with a cleft up part of it, and, as there was 

an evil-looking and nearly perpendicular gully of ice 

198 



PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS 

to the right and overhanging rocks to the left, we 
had either to go straight up or abandon the expedi- 
tion. The cleft was large and was garnished with a 
sturdy icicle, or column of ice, some 5 feet or more in 
diameter. Bidding me wedge myself into a firm 
place, Roman began to cut footholds up the icicle, 
and then, when after a few steps the cleft or chimney 
ended, he turned to his right and wormed himself 
along the very face of the cliff, holding on by the 
merest irregularities, which can hardly be termed 
ledges. After a couple of yards he struck straight 
up, and wriggling somehow on the surface, rendered 
horribly slippery by the snow, he at last, after what 
seemed an age, called on Wieland to follow. What 
was a tour de force for the first man was compara- 
tively easy for the second, and soon my turn came to 
try my hand or rather my feet and knees and any 
other adhesive portion of my person on the busi- 
ness. The first part was the worst, for, as the rope 
came from the side and not above till the traverse 
was made, I had no help. Eventually I, too, 
emerged on to the wall, and saw right over me the 
rope passing through a gap, behind which, excellently 
placed, were the guides. I helped myself to the 
utmost of my capacity, but a pull was not unwelcome 

towards the end, when, exhausted and breathless, I 

199 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

could struggle no more. As I joined the guides they 
moved to give me space on the ledge, and we spent 
a well-earned quarter of an hour in rest and refresh- 
ment. The worst was now over, but owing to the 
snow, which covered much of the rock to a depth 
of about 2 or 3 feet, the remainder of the way was 
distinctly difficult, and as the mountain was totally 
unknown to us we never could tell what troubles 
might be in store. However, having left the foot of 
the actual peak at 5.40 A.M., we arrived on the top 
at 10.40 A.M., and as we lifted our heads above the 
final rocks, hardly daring to believe that we really 
were on the summit, a distant cheer was borne to 
our ears from Piz Bernina, and we knew that our 
arrival had been observed by another party. 

So formidable did we consider the descent that we 
only allowed ourselves ten minutes on the top, and 
then we prepared to go. Could we cross the ridge 
to Piz Bernina and so avoid the chimney ? It had a 
great reputation, and we feared to embark on the 
unknown. So at 10.50 A.M. we began the descent, 
moving one at a time with the utmost caution. 
Before long the difficulties increased as we reached 
the steeper part of the mountain. The rocks now 
streamed with water from the rapidly melting snow, 

under the rays of an August sun. As I held on, 

200 



PIZ SCERSCEN TWICE IN FOUR DAYS 

streams ran in at my wristbands, and soon I was 
soaked through. But the work demanded such close 
attention that a mere matter of discomfort was 
nothing. Presently we had to uncoil our spare 100 
feet of rope, and now our progress grew slower and 
slower. After some hours we came to the chimney. 
No suitable rock could be found to attach the rope 
to, so Roman sat down and thought the matter out. 
The difficulty was to get the last man down ; for the 
two first, held from above, the descent was easy. 
Roman soon hit upon an ingenious idea. Wieland 
and I were to go down to the bottom of the cleft. 
Wieiand was to unrope me and, leaving me, was to 
cut steps across the ice-slope to our left till leverage 
was obtainable for the rope across the boss of rock 
where Roman stood, and where it would remain in 
position so long as it was kept taut, with Roman at 
one end and Wieland slowly paying out from below. 
The manoeuvre succeeded, and after about two hours' 
work Wieland had hewn a large platform in the ice 
and prepared to gradually let out the rope as Roman 
came down. He descended in grand form, puffing at 
his pipe and declared the difficulty grossly over-rated, 
though he did not despise the precaution. At 2.30 
A.M. we re-entered the Mortel Hut, somewhat tired, 

but much pleased with the success of our expedition. 

201 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Our second ascent of Piz Scerscen is soon told. 

Four days later Roman casually remarked to me : 
"It is a pity, ma'am, we have not crossed the Scerscen 
to the Bernina." 

" It is," I replied. " Let us start at once and 
do it." 

Wieland was consulted, and was only too delighted 
to go anywhere under Roman's leadership. Our 
times will give an idea of the changed state of the 
mountain, for, leaving the Mortel Hut at 12.30 mid- 
night, we were on the top of the Scerscen at 8 A.M. 
At nine we set off, and taking things leisurely,, 
with halts for food, we passed along the famous arete, 
and, thanks to Roman's choice of route, met with not 
one really hard step. At 2.30 P.M. we found ourselves 
on the top of Piz Bernina, and had a chat with 
another party, who had arrived not long before. I 
waited to see them start, and rejoiced that I had 
kept two plates. Then we, too, set forth, and were 
in the valley by 7 P.M. 



202 



ASCENT OF MONT BLANC BY A WOMAN 



THE FIRST ASCENT OF MONT BLANC BY A WOMAN, 
AND SOME SUBSEQUENT ASCENTS 

The first woman who reached the summit of Mont 
Blanc was a native of Chamonix, Maria Paradis 
by name. Her account of her expedition is so 
admirably graphic and picturesque that I shall 
give a translation of it as like the original as I can. 
Though it was so far back as the year 1809, Maria 
writes quite in the spirit of modern journalism. 

She begins : " I was only a poor servant. One 
day the guides said to me, * We are going up 
there, come with us. Travellers will come and see 
you afterwards and give you presents.' That 
decided me, and I set out with them. When I 
reached the Grand Plateau I could not walk any 
longer. I felt very ill, and I lay down on the 
snow. I panted like a chicken in the heat. They 
held me up by my arms on each side and 
dragged me along. But at the Rochers-Rouge I 
could get no further, and I said to them 'Chuck 
me into a crevasse and go on yourselves.' 

" ' You must go to the top,' answered the guides. 
They seized hold of me, they dragged me, they 

pushed me, they carried me, and at last we arrived. 

203 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Once at the summit, 1 could see nothing 
clearly, I could not breathe, I could not speak." 

Maria was thirty years of age, and made quite a 
fortune out of her achievement. From that time, 
tourists returning from Mont Blanc noticed with sur- 
prise, as they passed through the pine woods, a feast 
spread out under the shade of a huge tree. Cream, 
fruit, etc., were tastefully displayed on the white 
cloth. A neat-looking peasant woman urged them 
to partake. " It is Maria of Mont Blanc ! " the 
guides would cry, and the travellers halted to hear 
the story of her ascent and to refresh themselves. 

The second woman, and the first lady to climb 
Mont Blanc, was a Frenchwoman, Mademoiselle 
d'Angeville. For years she had determined to 
make the attempt, but it was only in 1838, when 
she was 44 years of age, that she came to Chamonix 
with the intention of immediately setting out for 
the great mountain. She had many difficulties 
to surmount. The guides feared the responsibility 
of taking up a woman, many of the Chamonix 
people thought her mad, and while one was ready 
to offer a thousand francs to five that she would 
not reach the top, another was prepared to accept 
heavy odds that there would be a catastrophe. 

At last, however, all was ready, and she started. 

204 




HARD WORK. 




MRS. AUDREY LE BLOND SETS OUT IN A LONG SKIRT (page 87). 



To face p. 204. 



ASCENT OF MONT BLANC BY A WOMAN 

Two other parties offered to join her. She de- 
clined with thanks. After half an hour on the 
glacier she detached herself from the rope and 
would accept no help. This was far from being 
out of sheer bravado, it was simply that she de- 
sired to inspire confidence in her powers. During 
the night on the rocks of the Grands Mulcts 
she suffered terribly from cold and could not 
snatch a moment's sleep. When the party stopped 
for breakfast at the Grand Plateau, she could eat 
nothing. At the Corridor, feverishness, and fear- 
ful thirst overcame her ; she fell to the ground 
from weakness and drowsiness. After a little rest, 
however, she was able to go on, but at the Mur de 
la Cote she felt desperately ill. Violent palpitation 
seized on her and her limbs felt like lead. With 
a tremendous effort she moved on. The beatings 
of her heart became more suffocating, her pulse 
was too rapid to count, she could not take more 
than ten steps without stopping. One thing only 
remained strong in her the will. During these 
frequent halts she heard the murmuring of talk 
between the guides, as in a dream. "We shall 
fail ! Look at her, she has fallen asleep ! Shall we 
try and carry her ? " while Couttet cried, "If ever 

I find myself again with a lady on Mont Blanc ! " 

205 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

At these words Mademoiselle d'Angeville, with a 
desperate effort, shook off her torpor and stood up. 
She clung with desperate energy to the one idea : " If 
I die," she said to the guides, " promise to carry 
me up there and bury me on the top ! " And 
the men, stupified with such persistence, answered 
gravely, " Make your mind easy, mademoiselle, y ou 
shall go there, dead or alive!" 

As she approached the top she felt better, and 
was able to advance without support, and when 
she stepped on to the summit, and knew that her 
great wish was at last accomplished, all sensation 
of illness vanished as if by enchantment 

" And now, mademoiselle, you shall go higher than 
Mont Blanc ! " exclaimed the guides, and joining 
hands they lifted her above their shoulders. 

One more ascent by a lady deserves mention here, 
that of Miss Stratton, on 3ist January 1876. She 
was the first person to reach the summit of Mont 
Blanc in mid-winter. 

It is difficult to understand why these early 
climbers of Mont Blanc, men as well as women, 
suffered so terribly from mountain sickness, a disease 
one rarely hears of nowadays in the Alps. The 
question is too vexed a one for me to discuss it here, 

but I may say that want of training and unsuitable 

206 



ASCENT OF MONT BLANC BY A WOMAN 

food bring it on in most cases. " The stagnation of 
the air in valleys above the snow-line," was believed 
to produce it, and I cannot help thinking that this 
does have some effect. The first time I went up 
Mont Blanc I did not feel well on the Grand Plateau, 
but was all right when I reached the breezy ridge of 
the Bosses. The second time, ascending by the route 
on the Italian side of the peak, where there are no 
snowy valleys, I did not suffer at all. The third 
time I felt uncomfortable on the slope leading to 
the Corridor, but quite myself again above. 



207 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

/^\F all the writers on Alpine matters none has a 
more charming style, or has described his 
adventures in a more modest manner, than Sir 
Leslie Stephen. Perhaps the most delightful pas- 
sages in his Playground of Europe are those in 
which he tells how, in company with the Messrs 
Mathews, he managed to get up the great wall of 
ice between the Monch and the Eiger, known as the 
Eigerjoch. The Messrs Mathews had with them two 
Chamonix guides, while Mr Leslie Stephen had en- 
gaged the gigantic Oberlander Ulrich Lauener. In 
those days there was often keen rivalry and some- 
thing more between French and German-speaking 
guides, and Lauener was apt to be rather an auto- 
crat on the mountains. " As, however, he could not 
speak a word of French, nor they of German, he was 
obliged to convey his ' sentiments ' in pantomime, 

which, perhaps, did not soften 'their vigour.' I 

208 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

was accordingly prepared for a few disputes next 
day. 

11 A bout four on the morning of /th August we got 
off from the inn on the Wengern Alp, notwithstand- 
ing a few delays, and steered straight for the foot of 
the Eiger. In the early morning the rocks around 
the glacier and the lateral moraines were hard and 
slippery. Before long, however, we found ourselves 
well on the ice, near the central axis of the Eiger 
Glacier, and looking up at the great terrace-shaped 
ice-masses, separated by deep crevasses, which rose 
threateningly over our heads, one above another, like 
the defences of some vast fortification. And here 
began the first little dispute between Oberland and 
Chamouni. The Chamouni men proposed a direct 
assault on the network of crevasses above us. 
Lauener said that we ought to turn them by crossing 
to the south-west side, immediately below the Monch. 
My friends and their guides forming a majority, and 
seeming to have little respect for the arguments 
urged by the minority, we gave in and followed 
them, with many muttered remarks from Lauener. 
We soon found ourselves performing a series of 
manoeuvres like those required for the ascent of 
the Col du Geant. At times we were lying flat in 

little gutters on the faces of the seracs> worming 
O 209 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

ourselves along like boa-constrictors. At the next 
moment we were balancing ourselves on a knife-edge 
of ice between two crevasses, or plunging into the 
very bowels of the glacier, with a natural arch of ice 
meeting above our heads. I need not attempt to 
describe difficulties and dangers familiar to all ice- 
travellers. Like other such difficulties, they were 
exciting, and even rather amusing for a time, but, 
unfortunately, they seemed inclined to last rather 
too long. Some of the deep crevasses apparently 
stretched almost from side to side of the glacier, 
rending its whole mass into distorted fragments. In 
attempting to find a way through them, we seemed 
to be going nearly as far backwards as forwards, and 
the labyrinth in which we were involved was as hope- 
lessly intricate after a long struggle as it had been at 
first. Moreover, the sun had long touched the higher 
snow-fields, and was creeping down to us step by 
step. As soon as it reached the huge masses amongst 
which we were painfully toiling, some of them would 
begin to jump about like hailstones in a shower, and 
our position would become really dangerous. The 
Chamouni guides, in fact, declared it to be dangerous 
already, and warned us not to speak, for fear of 
bringing some of the nicely-poised ice-masses down 

on our heads. On my translating this well-meant 

210 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

piece of advice to Lauener, he immediately selected 
the most dangerous looking pinnacle in sight, and 
mounting to the top of it sent forth a series of 
screams, loud enough, I should have thought, to 
bring down the top of the Monch. They failed, 
however, to dislodge any seracs, and Lauener, going 
to the front, called to us to follow him. By this time 
we were all glad to follow any one who was confident 
enough to lead. Turning to our right, we crossed the 
glacier in a direction parallel to the deep crevasses, 
and therefore unobstructed by any serious obstacles, 
till we found ourselves immediately beneath the 
great cliffs of the Monch. Our prospects changed at 
once. A great fold in the glacier produces a kind of 
diagonal pathway, stretching upwards from the point 
where we stood towards the rocks of the Eiger not 
that it was exactly a carriage-road but along the 
line which divides two different systems of crevasse, 
the glacier seemed to have been crushed into smaller 
fragments, producing, as it were, a kind of incipient 
macadamisation. The masses, instead of being 
divided by long regular trenches, were crumbled and 
jammed together so as to form a road, easy and 
pleasant enough by comparison with our former 
difficulties. Pressing rapidly up this rough path, we 
soon found ourselves in the very heart of the glacier, 

211 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

with a broken wilderness of ice on every side. We 
were in one of the grandest positions I have ever seen 
for observing the wonders of the ice-world ; but those 
wonders were not all of an encouraging nature. For, 
looking up to the snow-fields now close above us, an 
obstacle appeared which made us think that all our 
previous labours had been in vain. From side to 
side of the glacier a vast chevaux de frise of blue ice- 
pinnacles struck up through the white layers of neve 
formed by the first plunge of the glacier down its 
waterfall of ice. Some of them rose in fantastic 
shapes huge blocks balanced on narrow footstalks, 
and only waiting for the first touch of the sun to fall 
in ruins down the slope below. Others rose like church 
spires, or like square towers, defended by trenches of 
unfathomable depths. Once beyond this barrier we 
should be safe upon the highest plateau of the glacier 
at the foot of the last snow-slope. But it was 
obviously necessary to turn them by some judicious 
strategical movement. One plan was to climb the 
lower rocks of the Eiger ; but, after a moment's 
hesitation, we fortunately followed Lauener towards 
the other side of the glacier, where a small gap between 
the seracs and the lower slopes of the Monch seemed 
to be the entrance to a ravine that might lead us 
upwards. Such it turned out to be. Instead of the 

212 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

rough footing in which we had hitherto been unwill- 
ingly restricted, we found ourselves ascending a 
narrow gorge, with the giant cliffs of the Monch on 
our right, and the toppling ice-pinnacles on our left. A 
beautifully even surface of snow, scarcely marked by 
a single crevasse, lay beneath our feet. We pressed 
rapidly up this strange little pathway, as it wound 
steeply upwards between the rocks and the ice, 
expecting at every moment to see it thin out, or 
break off at some impassable crevasse. It was, I 
presume, formed by the sliding of avalanches from 
the slopes of the Monch. At any rate, to our delight, 
it led us gradually round the barrier of series, till in 
a few minutes we found ourselves on the highest 
plateau of the glacier, the crevasses fairly beaten, and 
a level plain of snow stretching from our feet to the 
last snow-slope. 

" We were now standing on the edge of a small level 
plateau. One, and only one, gigantic crevasse of 
really surpassing beauty stretched right across 
it. This was, we guessed, some 300 feet deep, 
and its sides passed gradually into the lovely blues 
and greens of semi-transparent ice, whilst long rows 
and clusters of huge icicles imitated (as Lauener 
remarked) the carvings and ecclesiastical furniture of 

some great cathedral. 

213 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" To reach our pass, we had the choice either of at 
once attacking the long steep slopes which led 
directly to the shoulder of the Monch, or of first 
climbing the gentle slope near the Eiger, and then 
forcing our way along the backbone ot the ridge. 
We resolved to try the last plan first. 

" Accordingly, after a hasty breakfast at 9.30, we 
started across our little snow-plain and commenced 
the ascent. After a short climb of no great difficulty,, 
merely pausing to chip a few steps out of the hard 
crust of snow, we successively stepped safely on to 
the top of the ridge. As each of my predecessors did 
so, I observed that he first looked along the arete, 
then down the cliffs before him, and then turned with 
a very blank expression of face to his neighbour. 
From our feet the bare cliffs sank down, covered with 
loose rocks, but too steep to hold more than patches 
of snow, and presenting right dangerous climbing for 
many hundred feet towards the Grindelwald glaciers, 
The arete offered a prospect not much better : a long 
ridge of snow, sharp as the blade of a knife, was 
playfully alternated with great rocky teeth, strik- 
ing up through their icy covering, like the edge of 
a saw. We held a council standing, and considered 
the following propositions : First, Lauener coolly 

proposed, and nobody seconded, a descent of the pre- 

214 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

cipices towards Grindelwald. This proposition pro- 
duced a subdued shudder from the travellers and a 
volley of unreportable language from the Chamounf 
guides. It was liable, amongst other things, to the 
trifling objection that it would take us just the way 
we did not want to go. The Chamouni men now 
proposed that we should follow the arete. This was 
disposed of by Lauener's objection that it would take 
at least six hours. We should have had to cut steps 
down the slope and up again round each of the rocky 
teeth I have mentioned ; and I believe that this cal- 
culation of time was very probably correct. Finally, 
we unanimously resolved upon the only course open 
to us to descend once more into our little valley, 
and thence to cut our way straight up the long slopes 
to the shoulder of the Monch. 

" Considerably disappointed at this unexpected 
check, we retired to the foot of the slopes, feeling 
that we had no time to lose, but still hoping that a 
couple of hours more might see us at the top of the 
pass. It was just eleven as we crossed a small berg- 
schrund and began the ascent. Lauener led the way 
to cut the steps, followed by the two other guides, 
who deepened and polished them up. Just as we 
started, I remarked a kind of bright tract drawn 

down the ice in front of us, apparently by the frozen 

215 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

remains of some small rivulet which had been trick- 
ling down it. I guessed it would take some fifty 
steps and half-an-hour's work to reach it. We cut 
about fifty steps, however, in the first half-hour, 
and were not a quarter of the way to my mark ; 
and as even when there we should not be half-way 
to the top, matters began to look serious. The 
ice was very hard, and it was necessary, as Lauener 
observed, to cut steps in it as big as soup-tureens, 
for the result of a slip would in all probability 
have been that the rest of our lives would have 
been spent in sliding down a snow-slope, and that 
that employment would not have lasted long enough 
to become at all monotonous. Time slipped by, and I 
gradually became weary of a sound to which at first 
I always listened with pleasure the chipping of the 
axe, and the hiss of the fragments as they skip down 
the long incline below us. Moreover, the sun was 
very hot, and reflected with oppressive power from 
the bright and polished surface of the ice. I could 
see that a certain flask was circulating with great 
steadiness amongst the guides, and the work of cut- 
ting the steps seemed to be extremely severe. I was 
counting the 25Oth step, when we at last reached 
the little line I had been so long watching, and it 

even then required a glance back at the long line of 

216 




A VERY STEEP ICE Si.oi'i-:. 




HARD SNOW IN THE EARLY MORNING ON THE TOP OF A GLACIER PASS 

NEARLY 12,000 FEET ABOVE SKA. 



To face p. 216. 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

steps behind to convince me that we had in fact 
made any progress. The action of resting one's 
whole weight on one leg for about a minute, and 
then slowly transferring it to the other, becomes 
wearisome when protracted for hours. Still the ex- 
citement and interest made the time pass quickly. 
I was in constant suspense lest Lauener should pro- 
nounce for a retreat, which would have been not 
merely humiliating, but not improbably dangerous, 
amidst the crumbling seracs in the afternoon sun. I 
listened with some amusement to the low meanings 
of little Charlet, who was apparently bewailing his 
position to Croz, and being heartless chaffed in re- 
turn. One or two measurements with a clinometer 
of Mathews' gave inclinations of 51 or 52, and the 
slope was perhaps occasionally a little more. 

" At last, as I was counting the 5 Both step, we 
reached a little patch of rock, and felt ourselves 
once more on solid ground, with no small satisfac- 
tion. Not that the ground was specially solid. It 
was a small crumbling patch of rock, and every stone 
we dislodged went bounding rapidly down the side 
of the slope, diminishing in apparent size till it dis- 
appeared in the bergschrund, hundreds of feet below. 
However, each of us managed to find some nook 

in which he could stow himself away, whilst the 

217 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Chamouni men took their turn in front, and cut steps 
straight upwards to the top of the slope. By this 
means they kept along a kind of rocky rib, of which 
our patch was the lowest point, and we thus could 
occasionally get a footstep on rock instead of ice. 
Once on the top of the slope, we could see no 
obstacle intervening between us and the point over 
which our pass must lie. 

" Meanwhile we meditated on our position. It was 
already four o'clock. After twelve hours' unceasing 
labour, we were still a long way on the wrong side of 
the pass. We were clinging to a ledge in the mighty 
snow-wall which sank sheer down below us and rose 
steeply above our heads. Beneath our feet the whole 
plain of Switzerland lay with a faint purple haze 
drawn over it like a veil, a few green sparkles just 
pointing out the Lake of Thun. Nearer, and appa- 
rently almost immediately below us, lay the Wengern 
Alp, and the little inn we had left twelve hours 
before, whilst we could just see the back of the 
labyrinth of crevasses where we had wandered so 
long. Through a telescope I could even distinguish 
people standing about the inn, who no doubt were 
contemplating our motions. As we rested, the 
Chamouni guides had cut a staircase up the slope,, 

and we prepared to follow. It was harder work than 

218 



THE ASCENT OF A WALL OF ICE 

before, for the whole slope was now covered with a 
kind of granular snow, and resembled a huge pile of 
hailstones. The hailstones poured into every foot- 
step as it was cut, and had to be cleared out with 
hands and feet before we could get even a slippery 
foothold. As we crept cautiously up this treacherous 
staircase, I could not help reflecting on the lively 
bounds with which the stones and fragments of 
ice had gone spinning from our last halting place 
down to the yawning bergschrund below. We suc- 
ceeded, however, in avoiding their example, and a 
staircase of about one hundred steps brought us to 
the top of the ridge, but at a point still at some dis- 
tance from the pass. It was necessary to turn along 
the arete towards the Monch. We were preparing 
to do this by keeping on the snow-ridge, when 
Lauener, jumping down about 6 feet on the side 
opposite to that by which we had ascended, lighted 
upon a little ledge of rock, and called to us to follow. 
He assured us that it was granite, and that therefore 
there was no danger of slipping. It was caused by 
the sun having melted the snow on the southern side 
of the ridge, so that it no longer quite covered the 
inclined plane of rock upon which it rested. It was 
narrow and treacherous enough in appearance at 

first ; soon, however, it grew broader, and, compared 

219 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

with our ice-climb, afforded capital footing. The 
precipice beneath us thinned out as the Viescher 
Glacier rose towards our pass, and at last we found 
ourselves at the edge of a little mound of snow, 
through which a few plunging steps brought us, just 
at six o'clock, to the long-desired shoulder of the 
Monch. 

" I cannot describe the pleasure with which we 
stepped at last on to the little saddle of snow, and 
felt that we had won the victory." 



220 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

mountains have been the object of such 
repeated attempts by experienced climbers to 
reach their summits, as was the rocky pinnacle of the 
Aiguille du Dru, at Chamonix. While the name 
of Whymper will always be associated with the 
Matterhorn, so will that of Clinton Dent be with the 
Aiguille du Dru, and the accounts given by him in 
his delightful little work, Above the Snow Line, of 
his sixteen unavailing scrambles on the peak, followed 
by the stirring description of how at last he got up it, 
are amongst the romances of mountaineering. 

I have space for only a few extracts describing Mr 
Dent's early attempts, which even the non-climber 
would find very entertaining to read about in the 
work from which I quote. The Chamonix people, 
annoyed that foreign guides should monopolise the 
peak, threw cold water on the idea of ascending 
it, and were ready, if they got a chance, to deny 

221 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

that it had been ascended. An honourable excep- 
tion to the attitude adopted by these gentry, was, 
however, furnished by that splendid guide, Edouard 
Cupelin, who always asserted that the peak was 
climbable, and into whose big mind no trace of 
jealousy was ever known to enter. 

Very witty are some of the accounts of Mr Dent's 
earlier starts for the Aiguille du Dru. On one 
occasion, starting in the small hours of the morning 
from Chamonix, he reached the Montanvert at 3.30 
A.M. " The landlord at once appeared in full 
costume," he writes ; " indeed I observed that during 
the summer it was impossible to tell from his attire 
whether he had risen immediately from bed or no. 
Our friend had cultivated to great perfection the art 
of half sleeping during his waking hours that is, 
during such time as he might be called upon to 
provide entertainment for man and beast. Now, at 
the Montanvert, during the tourists' season, this 
period extended over the whole twenty-four hours. 
It was necessary, therefore, in order that he might 
enjoy a proper physiological period of rest, for him to 
remain in a dozing state a sort of aestival hyberna- 
tion for the whole time, which in fact he did ; or 
else he was by nature a very dull person, and had 
actually a very restricted stock of ideas. 

222 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

" The sight of a tourist with an ice-axe led by a kind 
of reflex process to the landlord's unburdening his 
mind with his usual remarks. Like other natives of 
the valley he had but two ideas of * extraordinary ' 
expeditions. ' Monsieur is going to the Jardin ? ' he 
remarked. ' No, monsieur isn't.' * Then, beyond a 
doubt, monsieur will cross the Col du Geant?' he 
said, playing his trump card. ' No, monsieur will not.' 
1 Pardon where does monsieur expect to go ? ' ' On 
the present occasion we go to try the Aiguille du 
Dru.' The landlord smiled in an aggravating 
manner. * Does monsieur think he will get up ? ' 
' Time will show.' ' Ah ! ' The landlord, who had a 
chronic cold in the head, searched for his pocket- 
handkerchief, but not finding it, modified the 
necessary sniff into one of derision." On this day the 
party did not get up, nor did they gain the summit a 
little later when they made another attempt. They 
then had with them a porter who gave occasion for 
an excellent bit of character-sketching. "He was," says 
Mr Dent, " as silent as an oyster, though a strong and 
skilful climber, and like an oyster when its youth is 
passed, he was continually on the gape." They 
mounted higher and higher, and began at last to 
think that success awaited them. " Old Franz 

chattered away to himself, as was his wont when 

223 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

matters went well, and on looking back on one 
occasion I perceived the strange phenomenon of a 
smile illuminating the porter's features, However, 
this worthy spoke no words of satisfaction, but pulled 
ever at his empty pipe. 

" By dint of wriggling over a smooth sloping stone 
slab, we had got into a steep rock gully which 
promised to lead us to a good height. Burgener, 
assisted by much pushing and prodding from below, 
and aided on his own part by much snorting and 
some strong language, had managed to climb on to a 
great overhanging boulder that cut off the view from 
the rest of the party below. As he disappeared from 
sight we watched the paying out of the rope with as 
much anxiety as a fisherman eyes his vanishing line 
when the salmon runs. Presently the rope ceased to 
move, and we waited for a few moments in suspense. 
We felt that the critical moment of the expedition 
had arrived, and the fact that our own view was 
exceedingly limited, made us all the more anxious 
to hear the verdict. ' How does it look ? ' we called 
out. The answer came back in patois, a bad sign in 
such emergencies. For a minute or two an animated 
conversation was kept up ; then we decided to take 
another opinion, and accordingly hoisted up our 

second guides. The chatter was redoubled. ' What 

224 







Ox A VERY STEEP, SMOOTH Sl.AB OF 




XKCOTIATIM; STEKI' PASSACKS <>i 



To fact i'. ^5. 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

does it look like ? ' we shouted again. ' Not possible 
from where we are,' was the melancholy answer, and 
in a tone that crushed at once all our previous elation. 
I could not find words at the moment to express 
my disappointment ; but the porter could, and 
gallantly he came to the rescue. He opened his mouth 
for the first time and spoke, and he said very loud 
indeed that it was * verdammt.' Precisely : that is 
just what it was." 

It was not till 1878 that Mr Dent was able to 
return to Chamonix. He had now one fixed 
determination with regard to the Dru : either he 
would get to the top or prove that the ascent was 
impossible. 

His first few attempts that season were frustrated 
by bad weather, and so persistently did the rain 
continue to fall that for a couple of weeks no high 
ascents could be thought of. During this time, Mr 
Maund, who had been with Mr Dent on many of his 
attempts, was obliged to return to England. 

" On a mountain such as we knew the Aiguille du 
Dru to be, it would not have been wise to make any 
attempt with a party of more than four. No doubt 
three that is, an amateur with two guides would 
have been better still, but I had, during the enforced 

inaction through which we had been passing, become 
P 225 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

so convinced of ultimate success, that I was anxious 
to find a companion to share it. Fortunately, J. 
Walker Hartley, a highly skilful and practised 
mountaineer, was at Chamouni, and it required but 
little persuasion to induce him to join our party. 
Seizing an opportunity one August day, when the 
rain had stopped for a short while, we decided to 
try once more, or, at any rate, to see what effects 
the climatic phases through which we had been 
passing had produced on the Aiguille. With Alex- 
ander Burgener and Andreas Maurer still as guides, 
we ascended once again the slopes by the side of 
the Charpoua Glacier, and succeeded in discovering 
a still more eligible site for a bivouac than on our 
previous attempts. A little before four the next 
morning we extracted each other from our respec- 
tive sleeping bags, and made our way rapidly up 
the glacier. The snow still lay thick everywhere 
on the rocks, which were fearfully cold, and glazed 
with thin layers of slippery ice ; but our purpose 
was very serious that day, and we were not to be 
deterred by anything short of unwarrantable risk. 
We intended the climb to be merely one of explora- 
tion, but were resolved to make it as thorough as 
possible, and with the best results. From the middle 

of the slope leading up to the ridge the guides went 

226 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

on alone, while we stayed to inspect and work out 
bit by bit the best routes over such parts of the 
mountain as lay within view. In an hour or two 
Burgener and Maurer came back to us, and the 
former invited me to go on with him back to the 
point from which he had just descended. His invi- 
tation was couched in gloomy terms, but there was 
a twinkle at the same time in his eye which it was 
easy to interpret ce riest que Fceil qui rit. We 
started off, and climbed without the rope up the way 
which was now so familiar, but which on this occa- 
sion, in consequence of the glazed condition of the 
rocks, was as difficult as it could well be ; but for 
a growing conviction that the upper crags were not 
so bad as they looked, we should scarcely have per- 
severed. ' Wait a little,' said Burgener, ' I will show 
you something presently.' We reached at last a 
great knob of rock close below the ridge, and for a 
long time sat a little distance apart silently staring 
at the precipices of the upper peak. I asked Bur- 
gener what it might be that he had to show me. He 
pointed to a little crack some way off, and begged 
that I would study it, and then fell again to gazing 
at it very hard himself. Though we scarcely knew it 
at the time this was the turning point of our year's 

climbing. Up to that moment I had only felt doubts 

227 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

as to the inaccessibility of the mountain. Now a 
certain feeling of confident elation began to creep 
over me. The fact is, that we gradually worked 
ourselves up into the right mental condition, and the 
aspect of a mountain varies marvellously according 
to the beholder's frame of mind. These same crags 
had been by each of us independently, at one time 
or another, deliberately pronounced impossible. They 
were in no better condition that day than usual, in 
fact, in much worse order than we had often seen 
them before. Yet, notwithstanding that good judges 
had ridiculed the idea of finding a way up the pre- 
cipitous wall, the prospect looked different that day 
as turn by turn we screwed our determination up to 
the sticking point. Here and there we could clearly 
trace short bits of practicable rock ledges along 
which a man might walk, or over which at any rate 
he might transport himself, while cracks and irregu- 
larities seemed to develop as we looked. Gradually, 
uniting and communicating passages appeared to form. 
Faster and faster did our thoughts travel, and at last 
we rose and turned to each other. The same train 
of ideas had independently been passing through our 
minds. Burgener's face flushed, his eyes brightened, 
and he struck a great blow with his axe as we ex- 
claimed almost together, ' It must, and it shall be done!' 

228 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

" The rest of the day was devoted to bringing down 
the long ladder, which had previously been deposited 
close below the summit of the ridge, to a point much 
lower and nearer to the main peak. This ladder had 
not hitherto been of the slightest assistance on the 
rocks, and had, indeed, proved a source of constant 
anxiety and worry, for it was ever prone to precipitate 
its lumbering form headlong down the slope. We 
had, it is true, used it occasionally on the glacier to 
bridge over the crevasses, and had saved some time 
thereby. Still, we were loth to discard its aid 
altogether, and accordingly devoted much time and 
no little exertion to hauling it about and fixing it in 
a place of security. It was late in the evening before 
we had made all our preparations for the next 
assault and turned to the descent, which proved to 
be exceedingly difficult on this occasion. The snow 
had become very soft during the day ; the late hour 
and the melting above caused the stones to fall so 
freely down the gully that we gave up that line of 
descent and made our way over the face. Often, in 
travelling down, we were buried up to the waist in 
soft snow overlying rock slabs, of which we knew no 
more than that they were very smooth and inclined 
at a highly inconvenient angle. It was imperative 

for one only to move at a time, and the perpetual 

229 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

roping and unroping was most wearisome. In one 
place it was necessary to pay out 1 50 feet of rope 
between one position of comparative security and the 
one next below it, till the individual who was thus 
lowered looked like a bait at the end of a deep sea- 
line. One step and the snow would crunch up in a 
wholesome manner and yield firm support. The 
next, and the leg plunged in as far as it could reach, 
while the submerged climber would, literally, struggle 
in vain to collect himself. Of course those above, to 
whom the duty of paying out the rope was entrusted, 
would seize the occasion to jerk as violently at the 
cord as a cabman does at his horse's mouth when he 
has misguided the animal round a corner. Now 
another step, and a layer of snow not more than 
a foot deep would slide off with a gentle hiss, ex- 
posing bare, black ice beneath, or treacherous loose 
stones. Nor were our difficulties at an end when 
we reached the foot of the rocks, for the head of the 
glacier had fallen away from the main mass of the 
mountain, even as an ill-constructed bow-window 
occasionally dissociates itself from the fagade of a 
jerry-built villa, and some very complicated manoeuvr- 
ing was necessary in order to reach the snow slopes. 
It was not till late in the evening that we reached 

Chamouni ; but it would have mattered nothing to 

230 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

us even had we been benighted, for we had seen all 
that we had wanted to see, and I would have staked 
my existence now on the possibility of ascending the 
peak. But the moment was not yet at hand, and 
our fortress held out against surrender to the very 
last by calling in its old allies, sou'-westerly winds 
and rainy weather. The whirligig of time had not 
yet revolved so as to bring us in our revenge. 

" Perhaps the monotonous repetition of failures 
on the peak influences my recollection of what 
took place subsequently to the expedition last 
mentioned. Perhaps (as I sometimes think even 
now) an intense desire to accomplish our 
ambition ripened into a realisation of actual occur- 
rences which really were only efforts of imagination. 
This much I know, that when on 7th September 
we sat once more round a blazing wood fire at 
the familiar bivouac gazing pensively at the crack- 
ling fuel, it seemed hard to persuade one's self that 
so much had taken place since our last attempt. 
Leaning back against the rock and closing the 
eyes for a moment it seemed but a dream, whose 
reality could be disproved by an effort of the will, 
that we had gone to Zermatt in a storm and 

hurried back again in a drizzle on hearing that some 

231 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

other climbers were intent on our peak ; that we 
had left Chamouni in rain and tried, for the seven- 
teenth time, in a tempest ; that matters had 
seemed so utterly hopeless, seeing that the season 
was far advanced and the days but short, as to 
induce me to return to England, leaving minute 
directions that if the snow should chance to melt and 
the weather to mend I might be summoned back at 
once ; that after eight-and-forty hours of sojourn 
in the fogs of my native land an intimation had 
come by telegraph of glad tidings ; that I had 
posted off straightway by grande vitesse back to 
Chamouni ; that I had arrived there at four in the 
morning." 

Once more the party mounted the now familiar 
slopes above their bivouac, and somehow on this 
occasion they all felt that something definite would 
come of the expedition, even if they did not on 
that occasion actually reach the top. 

I give the remainder of the account in Mr 
Dent's own words : 

" Now, personal considerations had to a great 
extent to be lost sight of in the desire to make 
the most of the day, and the result was that 
Hartley must have had a very bad time of it. 

Unfortunately, perhaps for him, he was by far the 

232 



( '>F T 

( UNIVERSITY 

V 

^^ 

THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

lightest member of the party ; accordingly we 
argued that he was far less likely to break the 
rickety old ladder than we were. Again, as the 
lightest weight, he was most conveniently lowered 
down first over awkward places when they 
occurred. 

" In the times which are spoken of as old, and 
which have also, for some not very definable reason, 
the prefix good, if you wanted your chimneys 
iwept you did not employ an individual now digni- 
fied by the title of a Ramoneur, but you adopted 
the simpler plan of calling in a master sweep. 
This person would come attended by a satellite, who 
wore the outward form of a boy and was gifted 
with certain special physical attributes. Especially 
was it necessary that the boy should be of such 
a size and shape as to fit nicely to the chimney , 
not so loosely on the one hand as to have any 
difficulty in ascending by means of his knees and 
elbows, nor so tightly on the other as to run any 
peril of being wedged in. The boy was then in- 
serted into the chimney and did all the work, 
while the master remained below or sat expectant 
on the roof to encourage, to preside over, and sub- 
sequently to profit by, his apprentice's exertions. 

We adopted much the same principle. Hartley, 

233 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

as the lightest, was cast for the role of the jeune 
premier, or boy, while Burgener and I on 
physical grounds alone filled the part, however un- 
worthily, of the master sweep. As a play not 
infrequently owes its success to one actor so did 
our jeune premier, sometimes very literally, pull 
us through on the present occasion. Gallantly 
indeed did he fulfil his duty. Whether climbing 
up a ladder slightly out of the perpendicular, 
leaning against nothing in particular and with 
overhanging rocks above ; whether let down by 
a rope tied round his waist, so that he dangled 
like the sign of the ' Golden Fleece ' outside a 
haberdasher's shop, or hauled up smooth slabs of 
rock with his raiment in an untidy heap around 
his neck ; in each and all of these exercises he 
was equally at home, and would be let down or 
would come up smiling. One place gave us great 
difficulty. An excessively steep wall of rock pre- 
sented itself and seemed to bar the way to a 
higher level. A narrow crack ran some little way 
up the face, but above the rock was [slightly over- 
hanging, and the water trickling from some higher 
point had led to the formation of a huge bunch of 
gigantic icicles, which hung down from above. It 

was necessary to get past these, but impossible 

234 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

to cut them away, as they would have fallen on 
us below. Burgener climbed a little way up the 
face, planted his back against it, and held on to 
the ladder in front of him, while I did the same 
just below : by this means we kept the ladder 
almost prependicular, but feared to press the 
highest rung heavily against the icicles above lest 
we should break them off. We now invited 
Hartley to mount up. For the first few steps it 
was easy enough; but the leverage was more and 
more against us as he climbed higher, seeing that 
he could not touch the rock, and the strain on 
our arms below was very severe. However, he 
got safely to the top and disappeared from view. 
The performance was a brilliant one, but, fortu- 
nately, had not to be repeated ; as on a sub- 
sequent occasion, by a deviation of about 15 
or 20 feet, we climbed to the same spot in 
a few minutes with perfect ease and without using 
any ladder at all. On this occasion, however, we 
must have spent fully an hour while Hartley per- 
formed his feats, which were not unworthy of a 
Japanese acrobat. Every few feet of the mountain 
at this part gave us difficulty, and it was curious 
to notice how, on this the first occasion of travel- 
ling over the rock face, we often selected the 

235 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

wrong route in points of detail. We ascended 
from 20 to 25 feet, then surveyed right and left, 
up and down, before going any further. The 
minutes slipped by fast, but I have no doubt now 
that if we had had time we might have ascended 
to the final arete on this occasion. We had often 
to retrace our steps, and whenever we did so 
found some slightly different line by which time 
could have been saved. Though the way was 
always difficult nothing was impossible, and when 
the word at last was given, owing to the failing 
light, to descend, we had every reason to be satis- 
fied with the result of the day's exploration. 
There seemed to be little doubt that we had tra- 
versed the most difficult part of the mountain, and, 
indeed, we found on a later occasion, with one or 
two notable exceptions, that such was the case. 

However, at the time we did not think that, even 
if it were possible, it would be at all advisable to 
make our next attempt without a second guide. A 
telegram had been sent to Kaspar Maurer, instruct- 
ing him to join us at the bivouac with all possible 
expedition. The excitement was thus kept up to the 
very last, for we knew not whether the message might 
have reached him, and the days of fine weather were 
precious. 

236 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

"It was late in the evening when we reached again 
the head of the glacier, and the point where we had 
left the feeble creature who had started with us as a 
second guide. On beholding us once more he wept 
copiously, but whether his tears were those of grati- 
tude for release from the cramped position in which 
he had spent his entire day, or of joy at seeing us 
safe again, or whether they were the natural overflow 
of an imbecile intellect stirred by any emotion what- 
ever, it were hard to say ; at any rate he wept, and 
then fell to a description of some interesting details 
concerning the proper mode of bringing up infants, 
and the duties of parents towards their children ; the 
most important of which, in his estimation, was that 
the father of a family should run no risk whatever 
on a mountain. Reaching our bivouac, we looked 
anxiously down over the glacier for any signs of 
Kaspar Maurer. Two or three parties were seen 
crawling homewards towards the Montanvert over 
the ice-fields, but no signs of our guide were visible. 
As the shades of night, however, were falling, we 
were able indistinctly to see in the far-off distance 
a little black dot skipping over the Mer de Glace 
with great activity. Most eagerly did we watch the 
apparition, and when finally it headed in our direc- 
tion, and all doubt was removed as to the personality, 

237 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURJE 

we felt that our constant ill-luck was at last on the 
eve of changing. However, it was not till two days 
later that we left Chamouni once more for the nine- 
teenth, and, as it proved, for the last time to try the 
peak. 

" On I ith September we sat on the rocks a few feet 
above the camping-place. Never before had we been 
so confident of success. The next day's climb was 
no longer to be one of exploration. We were to 
start as early as the light would permit, and we were 
to go up and always up, if necessary till the light 
should fail. Possibly we might have succeeded long 
before if we had had the same amount of determina- 
tion to do so that we were possessed with on this 
occasion. We had made up our minds to succeed, 
and felt as if all our previous attempts had been but 
a sort of training for this special occasion. We had 
gone so far as to instruct our friends below to look 
out for us on the summit between twelve and two the 
next day. We had even gone to the length of bring- 
ing a stick wherewith to make a flagstaff on the top. 
Still one, and that a very familiar source of dis- 
quietude, harassed us as our eyes turned anxiously 
to the west. A single huge band of cloud hung 
heavily right across the sky, and looked like a 

harbinger of evil, for it was of a livid colour above, 

238 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

and tinged with a deep crimson red below. My 
companion was despondent at the prospect it sug- 
gested, and the guides tapped their teeth with their 
forefingers when they looked in that direction ; but 
it was suggested by a more sanguine person that its 
form and very watery look suggested a Band of 
Hope. An insinuating smell of savoury soup was 
wafted up gently from below 

* Stealing and giving odour.' 

We took courage; then descended to the tent, and 
took sustenance. 

" There was no difficulty experienced in making an 
early start the next day, and the moment the grey 
light allowed us to see our way we set off. On such 
occasions, when the mind is strung up to a high pitch 
of excitement, odd and trivial little details and inci- 
dents fix themselves indelibly on the memory. I can 
recall as distinctly now, as if it had only happened a 
moment ago, the exact tone of voice in which Bur- 
gener, on looking out of the tent, announced that the 
weather would do. Burgener and Kaspar Maurer 
were now our guides, for our old enemy with the 
family ties had been paid off and sent away with a 
flea in his ear an almost unnecessary adjunct, as 
anyone who had slept in the same tent with him 

could testify. Notwithstanding that Maurer was far 

239 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

from well, and, rather weak, we mounted rapidly at 
first, for the way was by this time familiar enough, 
and we all meant business. 

" Our position now was this. By our exploration 
on the last occasion we had ascertained that it was 
possible to ascend to a great height on the main 
mass of the mountain. From the slope of the rocks, 
and from the shape of the mountain, we felt sure that 
the final crest would be easy enough. We had then 
to find a way still up the face, from the point where 
we had turned back on our last attempt, to some 
point on the final ridge of the mountain. The rocks 
on this part we had never been able to examine very 
closely, for it is necessary to cross well over to the 
south-eastern face while ascending from the ridge 
between the Aiguille du Dru and the Aiguille Verte. 
A great projecting buttress of rock, some two or 
three hundred feet in height, cuts off the view of 
that part of the mountain over which we now hoped 
to make our way. By turning up straight behind 
this buttress, we hoped to hit off and reach the 
final crest just above the point where it merges 
into the precipitous north-eastern wall visible from 
the Chapeau. This part of the mountain can only 
be seen from the very head of the Glacier de la 

Charpoua just under the mass of the Aiguille Verte. 

240 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

But this point of view is too far off for accurate 
observations, and the strip of mountain was practi- 
cally, therefore, a terra incognita to us. 

" We followed the gully running up from the head 
of the glacier towards the ridge above mentioned, 
keeping well to the left. Before long it was neces- 
sary to cross the gully on to the main peak. To 
make the topography clearer a somewhat prosaic and 
domestic simile may be employed. The Aiguille du 
Dru and the Aiguille Verte are connected by a long 
sharp ridge, towards which we were now climbing ; 
and this ridge is let in, as it were, into the south- 
eastern side of the Aiguille du Dru, much as a comb 
may be stuck into the middle of a hairbrush, the 
latter article representing the main peak. Here we 
employed the ladder which had been placed in the 
right position the day previously. Right glad were 
we to see the rickety old structure, which had now 
spent four years on the mountain, and was much the 
worse for it. It creaked and groaned dismally under 
our weight, and ran sharp splinters into us at all 
points of contact, but yet there was a certain com- 
panionship about the old ladder, and we seemed 
almost to regret that it was not destined to share 
more in our prospective success. A few steps on 

and we came to a rough cleft some five-and-twenty 
Q 241 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

feet in depth, which had to be descended. A double 
rope was fastened to a projecting crag, and we swung 
ourselves down as if we were barrels of split peas 
going into a ship's hold ; then to the ascent again , 
and the excitement waxed stronger as we drew 
nearer to the doubtful part of the mountain. Still, 
we did not anticipate insuperable obstacles ; for I 
think we were possessed with a determination to 
succeed, which is a sensation often spoken of as a 
presentiment of success. A short climb up an easy 
broken gully, and of a sudden we seemed to be 
brought to a stand still. A little ledge at our feet 
curled round a projecting crag on the left. 'What 
are we to do now ? ' said Burgener, but with a smile 
on his face that left no doubt as to the answer. He 
lay flat down on the ledge and wriggled round the 
projection, disappearing suddenly from view, as if 
the rock had swallowed him up. A shout proclaimed 
that his expectations had not been deceived, and we 
were bidden to follow ; and follow we did, sticking 
to the flat face of the rock with all our power, and 
progressing like the skates down the glass sides of 
an aquarium tank. When the last man joined us 
we found ourselves all huddled together on a very 
little ledge indeed, while an overhanging rock above 

compelled us to assume the anomalous attitude en- 

242 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

forced on the occupant of a little-ease dungeon. 
What next ? An eager look up solved part of the 
doubt. ' There is the way/ said Burgener, leaning 
back to get a view. ' Oh, indeed, 1 we answered. No 
doubt there was a way, and we were glad to hear 
that it was possible to get up it. The attractions of 
the route consisted of a narrow flat gully plastered 
up with ice, exceeding straight and steep, and crowned 
at the top with a pendulous mass of enormous icicles. 
The gully resembled a half-open book standing up 
on end. Enthusiasts in rock-climbing who have 
ascended the Riffelhorn from the Corner Glacier side 
will have met with a similar gully, but, as a rule, free 
from ice, which, in the present instance, constituted 
the chief difficulty. The ice, filling up the receding 
angle from top to bottom, rendered it impossible to 
find handhold on the rocks, and it was exceedingly 
difficult to cut steps in such a place, for the slabs of 
ice were prone to break away entire. However, the 
guides said they could get up, and asked us to keep 
out of the way of chance fragments of ice which 
might fall down as they ascended. So we tucked 
ourselves away on one side, and they fell to as 
difficult a business as could well be imagined. The 
rope was discarded, and slowly they worked up, 

their backs and elbows against one sloping wall, 

243 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

their feet against the other. But the angle was too 
wide to give security to this position, the more 
especially that with shortened axes they were com- 
pelled to hack out enough of the ice to reveal the 
rock below. In such places the ice is but loosely 
adherent, being raised up from the face much as 
pie-crust dissociates itself from the fruit beneath 
under the influence of the oven. Strike lightly with 
the axe, and a hollow sound is yielded without much 
impression on the ice; strike hard, and the whole 
mass breaks away. But the latter method is the 
right one to adopt, though it necessitates very hard 
work. No steps are really reliable when cut in ice 
of this description. 

" The masses of ice, coming down harder and harder 
as they ascended without intermission, showed how 
they were working, and the only consolation we had 
during a time that we felt to be critical, was that the 
guides were not likely to expend so much labour 
unless they thought that some good result would 
come of it. Suddenly there came a sharp shout and 
cry ; then a crash as a great slab of ice, falling from 
above, was dashed into pieces at our feet and leaped 
into the air ; then a brief pause, and we knew not 
what would happen next. Either the gully had 

been ascended or the guides had been pounded, and 

244 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

failure here might be failure altogether. It is true 
that Hartley and I had urged the guides to find a 
way some little distance to the right of the line on 
which they were now working ; but they had reported 
that, though easy below, the route we had pointed 
out was impossible above. 1 A faint scratching noise 
close above us, as of a mouse perambulating behind 
a wainscot. We look up. It is the end of a rope. 
We seize it, and our pull from below is answered by 
a triumphant yell from above as the line is drawn 
taut. Fastening the end around my waist, I started 
forth. The gully was a scene of ruin, and I could 
hardly have believed that two axes in so short a 
time could have dealt so much destruction. Nowhere 
were the guides visible, and in another moment there 
was a curious sense of solitariness as I battled with 
the obstacles, aided in no small degree by the 
rope. The top of the gully was blocked up by a 
great cube of rock, dripping still where the icicles 
had just been broken off. The situation appeared 
to me to demand deliberation, though it was not 
accorded. 'Come on/ said voices from above. 'Up 
you go,' said a voice from below. I leaned as far 
back as I could, and felt about for a handhold. There 

1 It has transpired since that our judgment happened to be 
right in this matter, and we might probably have saved an hour 
or more at this part of the ascent. 

245 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

was none. Everything seemed smooth. Then right, 
then left ; still none. So I smiled feebly to myself, 
and called out, * Wait a minute.' This was, of 
course, taken as an invitation to pull vigorously, 
and, struggling and kicking like a spider irritated 
by tobacco smoke, I topped the rock, and lent a 
hand on the rope for Hartley to follow. Then we 
learnt that a great mass of ice had broken away 
under Maurer's feet while they were in the gully, 
and that he must have fallen had not Burgener 
pinned him to the rock with one hand. From the 
number of times that this escape was described to us 
during that day and the next, I am inclined to think 
that it was rather a near thing. At the time, and 
often since, I have questioned myself as to whether 
we could have got up this passage without the rope 
let down from above. I think either of us could have 
done it in time with a companion. It was necessary 
for two to be in the gully at the same time, to assist 
each other. It was necessary, also, to discard the 
rope, which in such a place could only be a source of 
danger. But no amateur should have tried the 
passage on that occasion without confidence in his 
own powers, and without absolute knowledge of the 
limit of his own powers. If the gully had been free 
from ice it would have been much easier. 

246 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

" ' The worst is over now,' said Burgener. I was 
glad to hear it, but looking upwards, had my doubts. 
The higher we went the bigger the rocks seemed to 
be. Still there was a way, and it was not so very 
unlike what I had, times out of mind, pictured to 
myself in imagination. Another tough scramble, and 
we stood on a comparatively extensive ledge. With 
elation we observed that we had now climbed more 
than half of the only part of the mountain of the 
nature of which we were uncertain. A few steps on 
and Burgener grasped me suddenly by the arm. 
' Do you see the great red rock up yonder ? ' he 
whispered, hoarse with excitement * in ten minutes 

we shall be there and on the arete, and then -' 

Nothing could stop us now ; but a feverish anxiety 
to see what lay beyond, to look on the final slope 
which we knew must be easy, impelled us on, and 
we worked harder than ever to overcome the last few 
obstacles. The ten minutes expanded into some- 
thing like thirty before we really reached the rock. 
Of a sudden the mountain seemed to change its form. 
For hours we had been climbing the hard, dry rocks. 
Now these appeared suddenly to vanish from under 
our feet, and once again our eyes fell on snow which 
lay thick, half hiding, half revealing, the final slope of 

the ridge. A glance along it showed that we had 

247 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

not misjudged. Even the cautious Maurer admitted 
that, as far as we could see, all appeared promising. 
And now, with the prize almost within our grasp, a 
strange desire to halt and hang back came on. Bur- 
gener tapped the rock with his axe, and we seemed 
somehow to regret that the way in front of us must 
prove comparatively easy. Our foe had almost 
yielded, and it appeared something like cruelty to 
administer the final coup de grace. We could already 
anticipate the half-sad feeling with which we should 
reach the top itself. It needed but little to make the 
feeling give way. Some one cried * Forward,' and 
instantly we were all in our places again, and the 
leader's axe crashed through the layers of snow into 
the hard blue ice beneath. A dozen steps, and then 
a short bit of rock scramble ; then more steps along 
the south side of the ridge, followed by more rock, 
and the ridge beyond, which had been hidden for a 
minute or two, stretched out before us again as we 
topped the first eminence. Better and better it 
looked as we went on. ' See there/ cried Burgener 
suddenly, ' the actual top ! ' 

"There was no possibility of mistaking the two huge 
stones we had so often looked at from below. They 
seemed, in the excitement of the moment, misty and 

blurred for a brief space, but grew clear again as I 

248 



THE AIGUILLE DU DRU 

passed my hand over my eyes, and seemed to 
swallow something. A few feet below the pinnacles 
and on the left was one of those strange arches 
formed by a great transverse boulder, so common 
near the summits of these aiguilles, and through the 
hole we could see blue sky. Nothing could lay 
beyond, and, still better, nothing could be above. 
On again, while we could scarcely stand still in the 
great steps the leader set his teeth to hack out. 
Then there came a short troublesome bit of snow 
scramble, where the heaped-up cornice had fallen 
back from the final rock. There we paused for a 
moment, for the summit was but a few feet from us, 
and Hartley, who was ahead, courteously allowed me 
to unrope and go on first. In a few seconds I 
clutched at the last broken rocks, and hauled myself 
up on to the sloping summit. There for a moment I 
stood alone gazing down on Chamouni. The holiday 
dream of five years was accomplished ; the Aiguille 
du Dru was climbed. Where in the wide world will 
you find a sport able to yield pleasure like this ? " 



249 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE MOST FAMOUS MOUNTAIN IN THE ALPS THE 
CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

"' ' 'HE story of the Matterhorn must always be 
one of unique attraction. Like a good play, 
it resumes and concentrates in itself the incidents 
of a prolonged struggle the conquest of the Alps. 
The strange mountain stood forth as a Goliath in 
front of the Alpine host, and when it found its con- 
queror there was a general feeling that the subjuga- 
tion of the High Alps by human effort was decided, 
a feeling which has been amply justified by events. 
The contest itself was an eventful one. It was 
marked by a race between eager rivals, and the final 
victory was marred by the most terrible of Alpine 
accidents. 

" As a writer, Mr Whymper has proved himself 
equal to his subject. His serious, emphatic style, his 
concentration on his object, take hold of his readers 

and make them follow his campaigns with as much 

250 




MR. AND MRS, SEILER AND THREE OK THEIK DAUGHTERS. ZER.MATT, 1890. 




GOING LEISURELY TO ZfiRMATT WITH A AIuLE FOR THE LUGGAGE IN* THE OLDEN DAYS 



To face p. 250. 



MOST FAMOUS MOUNTAIN IN THE ALPS 

interest as if some great stake depended on the 
result. No one can fail to remark the contrast 
between the many unsuccessful attacks which pre- 
ceded the fall of the Matterhorn, and the frequency 
with which it is now climbed by amateurs, some of 
whom it would be courtesy to call indifferent climbers. 
The moral element has, of course, much to do with 
this. But allowance must also be made for the fact 
that the Breil ridge, which looks the easiest, is still 
the most difficult, and in its unbechained state was 
far the most difficult. The terrible appearance of the 
Zermatt and Zmutt ridges long deterred climbers, 
yet both have now yielded to the first serious attack." 
These words, taken from a review of Mr Whymper's 
Ascent of the Matterhorn, occur in vol. ix. on page 
441 of The Alpine Journal. They are as true now as 
on the day when they appeared, but could the writer 
have known the future history of the great peak, and 
the appalling vengeance it called down over and over 
again on " amateurs " and the guides who, themselves 
unfit, tempted their ignorant charges to go blindly 
to their deaths, one feels he would have stood 
aghast at the contemplation of the tragedies to be 

enacted on the blood-stained precipices of that hoary 
peak. 



251 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

WHEN one remembers all the facilities for climbing 
which are found at present in every Alpine centre, the 
experienced guides who may be had, the comfortable 
huts which obviate the need for a bivouac out of doors, 
the knowledge of the art of mountaineering which is 
available if any desire to acquire it, one marvels more 
and more at the undaunted persistence displayed by 
the pioneers of present-day mountaineering in their 
struggle with the immense difficulties which beset 
them on every side. 

When, in 1861, Mr Whymper made his first attempt 
on the Matterhorn, the first problem he had to solve 
was that of obtaining a skilful guide. Michael Croz 
of Chamonix believed the ascent to be impossible. 
Bennen thought the same. Jean Antoine Carrel was 
dictatorial and unreasonable in his demands, though 
convinced that the summit could be gained. Peter 
Taugwalder asked 200 francs whether the top was 
reached or not. " Aimer asked, with more point than 
politeness, ' Why don't you try to go up a mountain 
which can be ascended ? ' ' 

In 1862 Mr Whymper, who had three times during 
the previous summer tried to get up the mountain, 

returned to Breuil on the Italian side, and thence 

252 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

made five plucky attempts, sometimes with Carrel, 
and once alone, to go to the highest point it was 
possible to reach. On the occasion of his solitary 
climb, Mr Whymper had set out from Breuil to see if 
his tent, left on a ledge of the mountain, was still, in 
spite of recent storms, safely in its place. He found 
all in good order, and tempted to linger by the lovely 
weather, time slipped away, and he at last decided to 
sleep that night in the tent, which contained ample 
provisions for several days. The next morning Mr 
Whymper could not resist an attempt to explore the 
route towards the summit, and eventually he managed 
to reach a considerable height, much above that 
attained by any of his predecessors. Exulting in the 
hope of entire success in the near future, he returned 
to the tent. " My exultation was a little premature," 
he writes, and goes on to describe what befell him on 
the way down. I give the thrilling account of his 
adventure in his. own words: 

"About 5 P.M. I left the tent again, and thought 
myself as good as at Breuil. The friendly rope and 
claw had done good service, and had smoothened all 
the difficulties. I lowered myself through the 
chimney, however, by making a fixture of the rope, 
which I then cut off, and left behind, as there was 

enough and to spare. My axe had proved a great 

253 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

nuisance in coming down, and I left it in the tent. 
It was not attached to the baton, but was a separate 
affair an old navy boarding-axe. While cutting up 
the different snow-beds on the ascent, the baton 
trailed behind fastened to the rope ; and, when climb- 
ing, the axe was carried behind, run through the rope 
tied round my waist, and was sufficiently out of the 
way ; but in descending when coming down face 
outwards (as is always best where it is possible), the 
head or the handle of the weapon caught frequently 
against the rocks, and several times nearly upset me. 
So, out of laziness if you will, it was left in the tent. 
I paid dearly for the imprudence. 

" The Col du Lion was passed, and fifty yards 
more would have placed me on the ' Great Staircase/ 
down which one can run. But, on arriving at an 
angle of the cliffs of the Tete du Lion, while skirting 
the upper edge of the snow which abuts against them, 
I found that the heat of the two past days had 
nearly obliterated the steps which had been cut when 
coming up. The rocks happened to be impracticable 
just at this corner, and it was necessary to make 
the steps afresh. The snow was too hard to beat or 
tread down, and at the angle it was all but ice ; half 
a dozen steps only were required, and then the 

ledges could be followed again. So I held to the 

254 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

rock with my right hand, and prodded at the snow 
with the point of my stick until a good step was 
made, and then, leaning round the angle, did the 
same for the other side. So far well, but in attempt- 
ing to pass the corner (to the present moment I 
cannot tell how it happened), I slipped and fell. 

"The slope was steep on which this took place, 
and was at the top of a gully that led down through 
two subordinate buttresses towards the Glacier du 
Lion which was just seen a thousand feet below. 
The gully narrowed and narrowed, until there was a 
mere thread of snow lying between two walls of rock, 
which came to an abrupt termination at the top of a 
precipice that intervened between it and the glacier. 
Imagine a funnel cut in half through its length, 
placed at an angle of 45 with its point below, 
and its concave side uppermost, and you will have 
a fair idea of the place. 

" The knapsack brought my head down first, and I 
pitched into some rocks about a dozen feet below ; 
they caught something and tumbled me off the edge, 
head over heels, into the gully ; the baton was 
dashed from my hands, and I whirled downwards in 
a series of bounds, each longer than the last ; now 
over ice, now into rocks ; striking my head four or 

five times, each time with increased force. The last 

255 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

bound sent me spinning through the air, in a leap of 
50 or 60 feet, from one side of the gully to the 
other, and I struck the rocks, luckily, with the whole 
of my left side. They caught my clothes for a 
moment, and I fell back on to the snow with motion 
arrested. My head, fortunately, came the right side 
up, and a few frantic catches brought me to a halt 
in the neck of the gully, and on the verge of the 
precipice. Baton, hat, and veil skimmed by and 
disappeared, and the crash of the rocks which I had 
started as they fell on to the glacier, told how 
narrow had been the escape from utter destruction. 
As it was, I fell nearly 200 feet in seven or eight 
bounds. Ten feet more would have taken me in one 
gigantic leap of 800 feet on to the glacier below. 

" The situation was sufficiently serious. The rocks 
could not be let go for a moment, and the blood was 
spirting out of more than twenty cuts. The most 
serious ones were in the head, and I vainly tried to 
close them with one hand, whilst holding on with the 
other. It was useless ; the blood jerked out in blind- 
ing jets at each pulsation. At last, in a moment of 
inspiration, I kicked out a big lump of snow, and 
stuck it as a plaster on my head. The idea was a 
happy one, and the flow of blood diminished. Then, 

scrambling up, I got, not a moment too soon, to a 

256 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

place of safety, and fainted away. The sun was 
setting when consciousness returned, and it was 
pitch dark before the Great Staircase was de- 
scended ; but, by a combination of luck and care, 
the whole 4900 feet of descent to Breuil was accom- 
plished without a slip, or once missing the way. I 
slunk past the cabin of the cowherds, who were talk- 
ing and laughing inside, utterly ashamed of the state 
to which I had been brought by my imbecility, and 
entered the inn stealthily, wishing to escape to my 
room unnoticed. But Favre met me in the passage, 
demanded * Who is it ? ' screamed with fright when 
he got a light, and aroused the household. Two 
dozen heads then held solemn council over mine, 
with more talk than action. The natives were unani- 
mous in recommending that hot wine mixed with 
salt should be rubbed into the cuts; I protested, 
but they insisted. It was all the doctoring they 
received. Whether their rapid healing was to be 
attributed to that simple remedy or to a good state 
of health is a question. They closed up remarkably 
quickly, and in a few days I was able to move 
again." 

In 1863 Mr Whymper once more returned to the 
attack, but still without success. In 1864 he was 

unable to visit the neighbourhood of the Matter- 
R 257 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

horn, but in 1865 he made his eighth and last 
attempt on the Breuil, or Italian side. 

The time had now come when Mr Whymper 
became convinced that it was an error to think 
the Italian side the easier. It certainly looked far 
less steep than the north, or Zermatt side, but on 
mountains quality counts for far more than quantity ; 
and though the ledges above Breuil might sometimes 
be broader than those on the Swiss side, and the 
general slope of the mountain appear at a distance 
to be gentler, yet the rock had an unpleasant out- 
ward dip, giving sloping, precarious hold for hand 
or foot, and every now and then there were abrupt 
walls of rock which it was hardly possible to ascend, 
and out of the question to descend without fixing 
ropes or chains. 

Now the Swiss side of the great peak differs 
greatly from its Italian face. The slope is really 
less steep, and the ledges, if narrow, slope inward, 
and are good to step on or grasp. Mr Whymper 
had noticed that large patches of snow lay on the 
mountain all the summer, which they could not do 
if the north face was a precipice. He determined, 
therefore, to make his next attempt on that side. 
He had, in 1865, intended to climb with Michel 

Croz, but some misunderstanding had arisen, and 

258 



Of THE 

UNIVERSITY 

OF 







THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

Croz, believing that he was free, had engaged him- 
self to another traveller. His letter, "the last one 
he wrote to me," says Mr Whymper, is " an interest- 
ing souvenir of a brave and upright man." The 
following is an extract from it : 

"enfin, Monsieur, je regrette beaucoup d'etre 
engage avec votre compatriote et de ne pouvoir 
vous accompagner dans vos conquetes mais des 
qu'on a donne sa parole on doit la tenir et etre 
homme. 

"Ainsi, prenez patience pour cette campagne et 
esperons que plus tard nous nous retrouverons. 

"En attendant recevez les humbles salutations de 
votre tout devoue. 

" CROZ MlCHEL-AUGUSTE." 

By an extraordinary series of chances, however, 
when Mr Whymper reached Zermatt, whom should 
he see sitting on the guides' wall but Croz ! His 
employer had been taken ill, and had returned home, 
and the great guide was immediately engaged by the 
Rev. Charles Hudson for an attempt on the Matter- 
horn ! Mr Whymper had been joined by Lord 
Francis Douglas and the Taugwalders, father and 
son, and thus two parties were about to start for the 
Matterhorn at the same hour next day. This was 

thought inadvisable, and eventually they joined forces 

259 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

and decided to set out the following morning to- 
gether. Mr Hudson had a young man travelling 
with him, by name Mr Hadow, and when Mr 
Whymper enquired if he were sufficiently experi- 
enced to take part in the expedition, Mr Hudson 
replied in the affirmative, though the fact that Mr 
Hadow had recently made a very rapid ascent of 
Mont Blanc really proved nothing. Here was the 
weakest spot in the whole business, the presence of 
a youth, untried on difficult peaks, on a climb which 
might involve work of a most unusual kind. Further, 
we should now-a-days consider the party both far 
too large and wrongly constituted, consisting as it 
did of four amateurs, two good guides, and a 
porter. 

On 1 3th July, 1865, at 5.30 A.M., they started from 
Zermatt in cloudless weather. They took things 
leisurely that day, for they only intended going a short 
distance above the base of the peak, and by 1 2 o'clock 
they had found a good position for the tent at about 
11,000 feet above sea. The guides went on some 
way to explore, and on their return about 3 P.M. 
declared that they had not found a single difficulty, 
and that success was assured. 

The following morning, as soon as it was light 

enough to start, they set out, and without trouble 

260 





. 

a 

S d 

O CJ 
' 



. 

H gj e 

5 - 



a S" 
a *. >- i_ 



Jigs 

HO 8 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

they mounted the formidable-looking north face, and 
approached the steep bit of rock which it is now 
customary to ascend straight up by means of a 
fixed chain. But they were obliged to avoid it by 
diverging to their right on to the slope overhang- 
ing the Zermatt side of the mountain. This 
involved somewhat difficult climbing, made especially 
awkward by the thin film of ice which at places 
overlay the rocks. " It was a place over which 
any fair mountaineer might pass in safety," writes Mr 
Whymper, and neither here nor anywhere else on 
the peak did Mr Hudson require the slightest help. 
With Mr Hadow, however, the case was different, 
his inexperience necessitating continual assistance. 

Before long this solitary difficulty was passed, and, 
turning a rather awkward corner, the party saw with 
delight that only 200 feet or so of easy snow sepa- 
rated them from the top ! 

Yet even then it was not certain that they had not 
been beaten, for a few days before another party, led 
by Jean Antoine Carrel, had started from Breuil, and 
might have reached the much-desired summit before 
them. 

The slope eased off more and more, and at last Mr 
Whymper and Croz, casting off the rope, ran a neck 

and neck race to the top. Hurrah ! not a footstep 

261 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

could be seen, and the snow at both ends of the ridge 
was absolutely untrampled. 

" Where were the men ? " Mr Whymper wondered, 
and peering over the cliffs of the Italian side he saw 
them as dots far down. They were 1250 feet below, 
yet they heard the cries of the successful party on the 
top, and knew that victory was not for them. Still a 
measure of success awaited them too, for the next 
day the bold Carrel, with J. B. Bich, in his turn 
reached the summit by the far more difficult route on 
the side of his native valley. Carrel was the one 
man who had always believed that the Matterhorn 
could be climbed, and one can well understand Mr 
Whymper's generous wish that he could have shared 
in the first ascent. 

One short hour was spent on the summit. Then 
began the ever-eventful descent. 

The climbers commenced to go down the difficult 
piece in the following order : Croz first, Hadow next, 
then Mr Hudson, after him Lord Francis Douglas, 
then old Taugwalder, and lastly Mr Whymper, who 
gives an account of what happened almost im- 
mediately after in the following words: 

" A few minutes later a sharp-eyed lad ran into the 
Monte Rosa Hotel to Seiler, saying that he had seen 

an avalanche falling from the summit of the Matter- 

262 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

horn on to the Matterhorngletscher. The boy was 
reproved for telling idle stories ; he was right, 
nevertheless, and this was what he saw : 

" Michel Croz had laid aside his axe, and in order 
to give Mr Hadow greater security, was absolutely 
taking hold of his legs, and putting his feet, one by 
one, into their proper positions. 1 So far as I know, 
no one was actually descending. I cannot speak with 
certainty, because the two leading men were partially 
hidden from my sight by an intervening mass of rock, 
but it is my belief, from the movements of their 
shoulders, that Croz, having done as I have said, was 
in the act of turning round, to go down a step or two 
himself; at this moment Mr Hadow slipped, fell 
against him, and knocked him over. I heard one 
startled exclamation from Croz, then saw him and 
Mr Hadow flying downwards. In another moment 
Hudson was dragged from his steps, and Lord 
Francis Douglas immediately after him. 2 AH 

1 Not at all an unusual proceeding, even between born moun- 
taineers. I wish to convey the impression that Croz was using 
all pains, rather than to indicate inability on the part of Mr 
Hadow. The insertion of the word "absolutely" makes the 
passage, perhaps, rather ambiguous. I retain it now in order 
to offer the above explanation. 

2 At the moment of the accident Croz, Hadow, and Hudson 
were close together. Between Hudson and Lord Francis 
Douglas the rope was all but taut, and the same between all 
the others who were above. Croz was standing by the side of a. 

263 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

this was the work of a moment. Immediately we 
heard Croz's exclamation old Peter and I planted 
ourselves as firmly as the rocks would permit ; l the 
rope was taut between us, and the jerk came on us 
both as on one man. We held, but the rope broke 
midway between Taugwalder and Lord Francis 

rock which afforded good hold, and if he had been aware, or 
had suspected that anything was about to occur, he might and 
would have gripped it, and would have prevented any mischief. 
He was taken totally by surprise. Mr Hadow slipped off his 
feet on to his back, his feet struck Croz in the small of the back, 
and knocked him right over, head first. Croz's axe was out of 
his reach, and without it he managed to get his head uppermost 
before he disappeared from our sight. If it had been in his 
hand I have no doubt that he would have stopped himself and 
Mr Hadow. Mr Hadow, at the moment of the slip, was not 
occupying a bad position. He could have moved either up or 
down, and could touch with his hand the rock of which I have 
spoken. Hudson was not so well placed, but he had liberty of 
motion. The rope was not taut from him to Hadow, and the 
two men fell 10 or 12 feet before the jerk came upon him. 
Lord Francis Douglas was not favourably placed, and could 
neither move up nor down. Old Peter was firmly planted, and 
stood just beneath a large rock, which he hugged with both 
arms. I enter into these details to make it more apparent that 
the position occupied by the party at the moment of the accident 
was not by any means excessively trying. We were compelled 
to pass over the exact spot where the slip occurred, and we 
found even with shaken nerves that // was not a difficult 
place to pass. I have described the slope generally as difficult, 
and it is so undoubtedly to most persons, but it must be dis- 
tinctly understood that Mr Hadow slipped at a comparatively 
easy part. 

1 Or, more correctly, we held on as tightly as possible. There 
was no time to change our position. 

264 




A BITTERLY COLD DAY, 13,000 FEET ABOVE SEA. 




THK MATTKKMOKN i K-OM THK ZMUTT simc. 
The dotted line shows the course which the unfortunate party probably took in their fatal fall. 



To face p. 265. 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

Douglas. For a few seconds we saw our unfortunate 
companions sliding downwards on their backs, and 
spreading out their hands, endeavouring to save 
themselves. They passed from our sight uninjured, 
disappeared one by one, and fell from precipice to 
precipice on to the Matterhorngletscher below, a dis- 
tance of nearly 4000 feet in height. From the moment 
the rope broke it was impossible to help them. So 
perished our comrades ! " 

A more terrible position than that of Mr Whymper 
and the Taugwalders it is difficult to imagine. The 
Englishman kept his head, however, though the two 
guides, absolutely paralysed with terror, lost all control 
over themselves, and for a long time could not be in- 
duced to move. At last old Peter changed his position, 
and soon the three stood close together. Mr Whymper 
then examined the broken rope, and found to his 
horror that it was the weakest of the three ropes, and 
had only been intended as a reserve to fix to rocks 
and leave behind. How it came to have been used will 
always remain a mystery, but that it broke and was 
not cut there is no doubt. Taugwalder's neighbours 
at Zermatt persisted in asserting that he severed the 
rope. " In regard to this infamous charge," writes 
Mr Whymper, " I say that he could not do so at the 

moment of the slip, and that the end of the rope in 

265 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

my possession shows that he did not do so before- 
hand." 

At 6 P.M., after a terribly trying descent, during any 
moment of which the Taugwalders, still completely 
unnerved, might have slipped and carried the whole 
party to destruction, they arrived on " the ridge de- 
scending towards Zermatt, and all peril was over." 
But it was still a long way to the valley, and an hour 
after nightfall the climbers were obliged to seek a 
resting-place, and upon a slab barely large enough to 
hold the three they spent six miserable hours. At 
daybreak they started again, and descended rapidly 
to Zermatt. 

" Seiler met me at the door. ' What is the matter ? ' 
* The Taugwalders and I have returned.' He did not 
need more, and burst into tears." 

At 2 A.M. on Sunday the i6th, Mr Whymper and 
two other Englishmen, with a number of Chamonix 
and Oberland guides, set out to discover the bodies. 
The Zermatt men, threatened with excommunication 
by their priests if they failed to attend early Mass 
were unable to accompany them, and to some of them 
this was a severe trial. By 8.30 they reached the 
plateau at the top of the glacier, and came within 
sight of the spot where their companions must be. 

" As we saw one weather-beaten man after another 

266 



THE CONQUEST OF THE MATTERHORN 

raise the telescope, turn deadly pale, and pass it on 
without a word to the next, we knew that all hope 
was gone." 

They drew near, and found the bodies of Croz, 
Hadow and Hudson close together, but of Lord 
Francis Douglas they could see nothing, though a 
pair of gloves, a belt and a boot belonging to him 
were found. The boots of all the victims were off, 
and lying on the snow close by. This frequently 
happens when persons have fallen a long distance 
down rocks. 

Eventually the remains were brought down to 
Zermatt, a sad and dangerous task. 

So ends the story of the conquest of the Matter- 
horn. Its future history is marred by many a tragedy, 
of which perhaps none are more pathetic, or were 
more wholly unnecessary, than what is known as the 
Borckhardt accident. 



267 



CHAPTER XX 

SOME TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

T)Y the summer of 1886 it had become common 
for totally inexperienced persons with in- 
competent guides (for no first-rate guide would 
undertake such a task) to make the ascent of the 
Matterhorn. In fine settled weather they con- 
trived to get safely up and down the mountain. 
But like all high peaks the Matterhorn is subject 
to sudden atmospheric changes, and a high wind 
or falling snow will in an hour or less change the 
whole character of the work and make the descent 
one of extreme difficulty even for experienced 
mountaineers. Practically unused to Alpine climb- 
ing, thinly clothed, and accompanied by young 
guides of third-rate ability, what wonder is it that 
when caught in a storm, a member of the party, 
whose expedition is described below, perished ? 

The editor of The Alpine Journal writes : " On 
268 




JOST, FOR MANY YEARS PORTER OF THE MONTE ROSA HOTEL, 
ZER.MATT. 



To face p. 268. 




TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

the morning of I7th August last four parties of 
travellers left the lower hut on the mountain and 
attained the summit. One of them, that of Mr 
Mercer, reached Zermatt the same night. The 
three others were much delayed by a sudden storm 
which came on during the descent. Two Dutch 
gentlemen, led by Moser and Peter Taugwald, 
regained the lower hut at an advanced hour of 
the night ; but Monsieur A. de Falkner and his 
son (with J. P. and Daniel Maquignaz, and Angelo 
Ferrari, of Pinzolo), and Messrs John Davies and 
Frederick Charles Borckhardt (with Fridolin 
Kronig and Peter Aufdemblatten), were forced to 
spend the night out; the latter party, indeed, 
spent part of the next day (i8th August) out as 
well, and Mr Borckhardt unfortunately suc- 
cumbed to the exposure in the afternoon. He 
was the youngest son of the late vicar of Lydden, 
and forty-eight years of age. Neither he nor 
Mr Davies was a member of the Alpine Club." 

The Pall Mall Gazette published on 24th 
August the account given by Mr Davies to an inter- 
viewer. It is as follows, and the inexperience of 
the climbers is made clear in every line: 

" We left Zermatt about 2 o'clock on Monday 

afternoon in capital spirits. The weather was 

269 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

lovely, and everything promised a favourable 
ascent. We had two guides whose names were 
on the official list, whose references were satis- 
factory, and who were twice over recommended 
to us by Herr Seiler, whose advice we sought 
before we engaged them, and who gave them ex- 
cellent credentials. We placed ourselves in their 
hands, as is the rule in such cases, ordered the 
provisions and wine which they declared to be 
necessary, and made ready for the ascent. I had 
lived among hills from my boyhood. I had some 
experience of mountaineering in the Pyrenees, where 
I ascended the highest and other peaks. In the 
Engadine I have also done some climbing ; and 
last week, together with Mr Borckhardt, who was 
one of my oldest friends, I made the ascent of 
the Titlis, and made other excursions among the 
hills. Mr Borckhardt was slightly my senior, but 
as a walker he was quite equal to me in endur- 
ance. When we arrived at Zermatt last Saturday 
we found that parties were going up the Matter- 
horn on Monday. We knew that ladies had made 
the ascent, and youths; and the mountain besides 
had been climbed by friends of ours whose physical 
strength, to say the least, was not superior to ours. 

It was a regular thing to go up the Matterhorn, 

270 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

and we accordingly determined to make the 
ascent. 

" We started next morning at half-past two or three. 
We were the third party to leave the cabin, but, 
making good speed over the first stage of the ascent, 
we reached the second when the others were break- 
fasting there, and then resumed the climb. Mr 
Mercer, with his party, followed by the Dutch party, 
started shortly before us. We met them about a 
quarter-past eight returning from the top. They 
said that they had been there half an hour, and that 
there was no view. We passed them, followed by the 
Italians, and reached the summit about a quarter to 
nine. The ascent, though toilsome, had not ex- 
hausted us in the least. Both Mr Borckhardt and 
myself were quite fresh, although we had made the 
summit before the Italians, who started together with 
us from the second hut Had the weather remained 
favourable, we could have made the descent with 
ease. 1 

" Even while we were on the summit I felt hail 
begin to fall, and before we were five minutes on our 

1 Here the whole contention that the party was a competent 
one falls to the ground. No one without a reserve of strength 
and skill to meet possible bad weather should embark on an 
important ascent. Fair-weather guides and climbers should 
keep to easy excursions. 

271 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

way down it was hailing heavily. It was a fine hail t 
and inches of it fell in a very short time, and the 
track was obliterated. We pressed steadily down- 
wards, followed by the Italians, nor did it occur to me 
at that time that there was any danger. We got 
past the ropes and chains safely, and reached the 
snowy slope on the shoulder. At this point we were 
leading. But as the Italians had three guides, and 
we only two, we changed places, so that their third 
guide could lead. They climbed down the slope, 
cutting steps for their feet in the ice. We trod 
closely after the Italians, but the snow and hail filled 
up the holes so rapidly, that, in order to make a safe 
descent, our guides had to recut the steps. This 
took much time as much as two hours I should 
say and every hour the snow was getting deeper. 
At last we got down the snow-slope on to the steep 
rocks below. The Italians were still in front of us, 
and we all kept on steadily descending. We were 
still in good spirits, nor did we feel any doubt that 
we should reach the bottom. Our first alarm was 
occasioned by the Italians losing their way. They 
found their progress barred by precipitous rocks, and 
their guides came back to ours to consult as to the 
road. Our guides insisted that the path lay down 

the side of a steep couloir. Their guides demurred ; 

272 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

but after going down some ten feet, they cried out 
that our guides were right, and they went on we 
followed. By this time it was getting dark. The 
hail continued increasing. We began to get alarmed. 
It seemed impossible to make our way to the cabin 
that night. We had turned to the right after leaving 
the couloir, crossed some slippery rocks, and after a 
short descent turned to the left and came to the edge 
of the precipice where Mosely fell, where there was 
some very slight shelter afforded by an overhanging 
rock, and there we prepared to pass the night, seeing 
that all further progress was hopeless. We were 
covered with ice. The night was dark. The air was 
filled with hail. We were too cold to eat. The 
Italians were about an hour below us on the moun- 
tain side. We could hear their voices and exchanged 
shouts. Excepting them, we were thousands of feet 
above any other human being. I found that while 
Borckhardt had emptied his brandy-flask, mine was 
full. I gave him half of mine. That lasted us 
through the night. We did not try the wine till the 
morning, and then we found that it was frozen solid. 
Never have I had a more awful experience than 
that desolate night on the Matterhorn. We were 

chilled to the bone, and too exhausted to stand, 
s 273 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

The wind rose, and each gust drove the hail into our 
faces, cutting us like a knife. Our guides did every- 
thing that man could do to save us. Aufdemblatten 
did his best to make us believe that there was no 
danger. * Only keep yourselves warm ; keep moving ; 
and we shall go down all right to-morrow, when the 
sun rises.' ' It is of no use,' I replied ; ' we shall die 
here ! ' They chafed our limbs, and did their best to 
make us stand up ; but it was in vain. I felt angry 
at their interference. Why could they not leave us 
alone to die ? I remember striking wildly but feebly 
at my guide as he insisted on rubbing me. Every 
movement gave me such agony, I was racked with 
pain, especially in my back and loins pain so in- 
tense as to make me cry out. The guides had 
fastened the rope round the rock to hold on by, 
while they jumped to keep up the circulation of the 
blood. They brought us to it, and made us jump 
twice or thrice. Move we could not ; we lay back 
prostrate on the snow and ice, while the guides 
varied their jumping by rubbing our limbs and en- 
deavouring to make us move our arms and legs. 
They were getting feebler and feebler. Borckhardt 
and I, as soon as we were fully convinced that death 

was imminent for us, did our best to persuade our 

274 





ft 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

guides to leave us where we lay and make their way 
down the hill. They were married men with families. 
To save us was impossible ; they might at least save 
themselves. We begged them to consider their wives 
and children and to go. This was at the beginning of 
the night. They refused. They would rather die with 
us, they said ; they would remain and do their best. 

" Borckhardt and I talked a little as men might do 
who are at the point of death. He bore without 
complaining pain that made me cry out from time to 
time. We both left directions with the guides that 
we were to be buried at Zermatt. Borckhardt spoke 
of his friends and his family affairs, facing his death 
with manly resignation and composure. As the night 
wore on I became weaker and weaker. I could not 
even make the effort necessary to flick the snow off 
my companion's face. By degrees the guides began 
to lose hope. The cold was so intense, we crouched 
together for warmth. They lay beside us to try 
and impart some heat. It was in vain. ' We shall 
die ! ' ' We are lost ! ' ' Yes,' said Aufdemblatten, 
1 very likely we shall.' He was so weak, poor fellow, 
he could hardly keep his feet ; but still he tried to 
keep me moving. It was a relief not to be touched. 

I longed for death, but death would not come. 

275 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Towards half-past two on Wednesday morning 
so we reckoned, for all our watches had stopped with 
the cold the snow ceased, and the air became clear. 
It had been snowing or hailing without intermission 
for eighteen hours. It was very dark below, but 
above all was clear, although the wind still blew. 
When the sun rose, we saw just a gleam of light. 
Then a dark cloud came from the hollow below, and 
our hopes went out. * Oh, if only the sun would 
come out ! ' we said to each other, I do not know 
how many times. But it did not, and instead of the 
sun came the snow once more. Towards seven, as 
near as I can make it, a desperate attempt was made 
to get us to walk. The guides took Borckhardt, and 
between them propped him on his feet and made him 
stagger on a few steps. They failed to keep him mov- 
ing more than a step or two. The moment they let 
go he dropped. They repeated the same with me. 
Neither could I stand. I remember four distinct 
times they drove us forward, only to see us drop 
helpless after each step. It was evidently no use. 
Borckhardt had joined again with me in repeatedly 
urging the guides to leave us and to save themselves. 
They had refused, and continued to do all that their 

failing strength allowed to protect us from the bitter 

276 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

cold. As the morning wore on, my friend, who 
during the night had been much more composed 
and tranquil than I, began to grow perceptibly 
weaker. We were quite resigned to die, and had, 
in fact, lost all hope. We had been on the moun- 
tain from about 3 A.M. on Tuesday to I P.M. on 
Wednesday thirty-four hours in all. Eighteen of 
these were spent in a blinding snowstorm, and we 
had hardly tasted food since we left the summit at 
nine on the Tuesday morning. At length (about one) 
we heard shouts far down the mountain. The guides 
said they probably proceeded from a search party 
sent out to save us. I again urged the guides to go 
down by themselves to meet the searchers, and to 
hurry them up. This they refused to do unless I 
accompanied them. Borckhardt was at this time too 
much exhausted to stand upright, and was lying in 
a helpless condition. The guides, although com- 
pletely worn out, wished to attempt the descent with 
me, and they considered that by so doing we should 
be able to indicate to the searchers the precise spot 
where my friend lay, and to hasten their efforts to 
reach him with stimulants. Since early morning the 
snow had ceased falling. We began the descent, and 

at first I required much assistance from the guides, 

277 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

but by degrees became better able to move, and the 
hope of socn procuring help from the approaching 
party for my poor friend sustained us. After a most 
laborious descent of about an hour and a half, we 
reached the first members of the rescue party, and 
directed them to where Borckhardt lay, requesting 
them to proceed there with all haste, and, after giving 
him stimulants, to bring him down to the lower hut 
in whatever condition they found him. We went on 
to the hut to await his arrival, meeting on the way 
Mr King, of the English Alpine Club, with his 
guides, who were hurrying up with warm clothing. 
A few hours later we heard the terrible news that 
the relief party had found him dead." 

A letter to The Times, written by Mr (now Sir 
Henry Seymour) King comments as follows on this, 
deplorable accident. It is endorsed by all the mem- 
bers of the Alpine Club then at Zermatt. After 
describing the circumstances of the ascent, the writer 
continues : " Instead of staying all together, as more 
experienced guides would have done, and keeping 
Mr Borckhardt warm and awake until help came, 
they determined at about I P.M. to leave him alone 
on the mountain. According to their account, the 
snow had ceased and the sun had begun to shine 

2/8 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

when they left him. At that moment a relief party 
was not far off, as the guides must have known. 
They heard the shouts of the relief party soon after 
leaving Mr Borckhardt, and there was, as far as I 
can see, no pressing reason for their departure. 
They reached the lower hut at about 5 P.M., and 
at about the same time a rescue party from Zermatt, 
which had met them descending, reached Mr Borck- 
hardt, and found him dead, stiff, and quite cold, and 
partly covered with freshly-fallen snow. No doubt 
he had succumbed to drowsiness soon after he was 
left. 

" The moral of this most lamentable event is plain. 
The Matterhorn is not a mountain to be played with ; 
it is not a peak which men ought to attempt until they 
have had some experience of climbing. Above all, it 
is not a peak which should ever be attempted except 
with thoroughly competent guides. In a snowstorm 
no member of a party should ever be left behind and 
alone. He will almost certainly fall into a sleep, 
from which it is notorious that he will never awake. 
If he will not walk, he must be carried. If he sits 
down, he must be made to get up. Guides have to 
do this not unfrequently. A stronger and more 

experienced party would undoubtedly have reached 

279 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

Zermatt without misfortune. In fact, one party 
which was on the mountain on the same day did 
reach Zermatt in good time." 

It is fitting that this short, and necessarily incom- 
plete, account of the conquest of the Matterhorn, and 
events occurring subsequently on it, should conclude 
with the recital of a magnificent act of heroism per- 
formed by Jean-Antoine Carrel, whose name, more 
than that of any other guide, is associated with the 
history of the peak. No more striking instance of 
the devotion of a guide to his employers could be 
chosen to bring these true tales of the hills to an 
appropriate end. 

I take the account from Scrambles Among the Alps. 

" When telegrams came in, at the beginning of 
September 1890, stating that Jean-Antoine Carrel 
had died from fatigue on the south side of the 
Matterhorn, those who knew the man scarcely 
credited the report. It was not likely that this tough 
and hardy mountaineer would die from fatigue any- 
where, still less that he would succumb upon 'his 
own mountain.' But it was true. Jean-Antoine 
perished from the combined effects of cold, hunger, 
and fatigue, upon his own side of his own mountain, 

almost within sight of his own home. He started on 

280 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

the 2 3rd of August from Breuil, with an Italian 
gentleman and Charles Gorret (brother of the Abbe" 
Gorret), with the intention of crossing the Matterhorn 
in one day. The weather at the time of their 
departure was the very best, and it changed in the 
course of the day to the very worst. They were 
shut up in the cabane at the foot of the Great Tower 
during the 24th, with scarcely any food, and on the 
25th retreated to Breuil. Although Jean-Antoine 
(upon whom, as leading guide, the chief labour and 
responsibility naturally devolved) ultimately suc- 
ceeded in getting his party safely off the mountain, 
he himself was so overcome by fatigue, cold, and 
want of food, that he died on the spot. 

Jean-Antoine Carrel entered his sixty-second year 
in January iQOi, 1 and was in the field throughout the 
summer. On 2ist August, having just returned from 
an ascent of Mont Blanc, he was engaged at Cour- 
mayeur by Signor Leone Sinigaglia, of Turin, for an 
ascent of the Matterhorn. He proceeded to the Val 
Tournanche, and on the 23rd set out with him and 
Charles Gorret, for the last time, to ascend his own 

mountain by his own route. A long and clear 
1 The exact date of his birth does not seem to be known. 
He was christened at the Church of St Antoine, Val Tour- 
nanche, on I7th January 1829. 

28l 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

account of what happened was communicated by 
Signor Sinigaglia to the Italian Alpine Club, and 
from this the following relation is condensed : 

" We started for the Cervin at 2.15 A.M. on the 23rd, 
in splendid weather, with the intention of descending 
the same night to the hut at the Hornli on the Swiss 
side. We proceeded pretty well, but the glaze of 
ice on the rocks near the Col du Lion retarded our 
march somewhat, and when we arrived at the hut 
at the foot of the Great Tower, prudence counselled 
the postponement of the ascent until the next day, 
for the sky was becoming overcast. We decided 
upon this, and stopped. 

" Here I ought to mention that both I and Gorret 
noticed with uneasiness that Carrel showed signs of 
fatigue upon leaving the Col du Lion. I attributed 
this to temporary weakness. As soon as we reached 
the hut he lay down and slept profoundly for two 
hours, and awoke much restored. In the meantime 
the weather was rapidly changing. Storm clouds 
coming from the direction of Mont Blanc hung over 
the Dent d'H&rens, but we regarded them as tran- 
sitory, and trusted to the north wind, which was still 
continuing to blow. Meanwhile, three of the Maquig- 

nazs and Edward Bich, whom we found at the hut v 

282 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

returned from looking after the ropes, started down- 
wards for Breuil, at parting wishing us a happy 
ascent, and holding out hopes of a splendid day for 
the morrow. 

" But, after their departure, the weather grew worse 
very rapidly ; the wind changed, and towards evening 
there broke upon us a most violent hurricane of hail 
and snow, accompanied by frequent flashes of light- 
ning. The air was so charged with electricity that for 
two consecutive hours in the night one could see in 
the hut as in broad daylight. The storm continued 
to rage all night, and the day and night following, 
continuously, with incredible violence. The tem- 
perature in the hut fell to 3 degrees. 

" The situation was becoming somewhat alarming, 
for the provisions were getting low, and we had 
already begun to use the seats of the hut as firewood. 
The rocks were in an extremely bad state, and we 
were afraid that if we stopped longer, and the storm 
continued, we should be blocked up in the hut for 
several days. This being the state of affairs, it was 
decided among the guides that if the wind should 
abate we should descend on the following morning ; 
and, as the wind did abate somewhat, on the morning 
of the 25th (the weather, however, still remaining 

283 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

very bad) it was unanimously settled to make a 
retreat. 

" At 9 A.M. we left the hut. I will not speak of the 
difficulties and dangers in descending the arete to the 
Col du Lion, which we reached at 2.30 P.M. The 
ropes were half frozen, the rocks were covered with a 
glaze of ice, and fresh snow hid all points of support. 
Some spots were really as bad as could be, and I owe 
much to the prudence and coolness of the two guides 
that we got over them without mishap. 

" At the Col du Lion, where we hoped the wind 
would moderate, a dreadful hurricane recommenced, 
and in crossing the snowy passages we were nearly 
suffocated by the wind and snow which attacked us on 
all sides. 1 Through the loss of a glove, Gorret, half 
an hour after leaving the hut, had already got a hand 
frost-bitten. The cold was terrible here. Every 
moment we had to remove the ice from our eyes, and 
it was with the utmost difficulty that we could speak 
so as to understand one another. 

"Nevertheless, Carrel continued to direct the 
descent in a most admirable manner, with a coolness, 

1 Signer Peraldo, the innkeeper at Breuil, stated that a relief 
party was in readiness during the whole of 25th August (the day 
on which the descent was made), and was prevented from 
starting by the violence of the tempest. 

284 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

ability, and energy above all praise. I was delighted 
to see the change, and Gorret assisted him splendidly. 
This part of the descent presented unexpected diffi- 
culties, and at several points great dangers, the more 
so because the tourmente prevented Carrel from being 
sure of the right direction, in spite of his consummate 
knowledge of the Matterhorn. At 1 1 P.M (or there- 
abouts, it was impossible to look at our watches, as 
all our clothes were half frozen) we were still toiling 
down the rocks. The guides sometimes asked each 
other where they were ; then we went forward again 
to stop, indeed, would have been impossible. Carrel 
at last, by marvellous instinct, discovered the passage 
up which we had come, and in a sort of grotto we 
stopped a minute to take some brandy. 

" While crossing some snow we saw Carrel slacken 
his pace, and then fall back two or three times to the 
ground. Gorret asked him what was the matter, and 
he said ' nothing,' but he went on with difficulty. 
Attributing this to fatigue through the excessive 
toil, Gorret put himself at the head of the caravan, 
and Carrel, after the change, seemed better, and 
walked well, though with more circumspection than 
usual. From this place a short and steep passage 
takes one down to the pastures, where there is 

285 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

safety. Gorret descended first, and I after him. 
We were nearly at the bottom when I felt the rope 
pulled. We stopped, awkwardly placed as we 
were, and cried out to Carrel several times to 
come down, but we received no answer. Alarmed, 
we went up a little way, and heard him say, in a faint 
voice, ' Come up and fetch me ; I have no strength 
left' 

" We went up and found that he was lying with his 
stomach to the ground, holding on to a rock, in a 
semi-conscious state, and unable to get up or to move 
a step. With extreme difficulty we carried him to a 
safe place, and asked him what was the matter. His 
only answer was, * I know no longer where I am.' 
His hands were getting colder and colder, his speech 
weaker and more broken, and his body more still. 
We did all we could for him, putting with great diffi- 
culty the rest of the cognac into his mouth. He said 
something, and appeared to revive, but this did not 
last long. We tried rubbing him with snow, and 
shaking him, and calling to him continually, but he 
could only answer with moans. 

"We tried to lift him, but it was impossible he 
was getting stiff. We stooped down, and asked in 

his ear if he wished to commend his soul to God. 

286 



TRAGEDIES ON THE MATTERHORN 

With a last effort he answered ' Yes,' and then fell on 
his back, dead, upon the snow. 

" Such was the end of Jean-Antoine Carrel a man 
who was possessed with a pure and genuine love of 
mountains ; a man of originality and resource, 
courage and determination, who delighted in ex- 
ploration. His special qualities marked him out as 
a fit person to take part in new enterprises, and I 
preferred him to all others as a companion and 
assistant upon my journey amongst the Great Andes 
of the Equator. Going to a new country, on a new 
continent, he encountered much that was strange and 
unforeseen ; yet when he turned his face homewards 
he had the satisfaction of knowing that he left no 
failures behind him. 1 After parting at Guayaquil in 
1880 we did not meet again. In his latter years, I 
am told, he showed signs of age, and from informa- 
tion which has been communicated to me it is clear 
that he had arrived at a time when it would have 
been prudent to retire if he could have done so. It 
was not in his nature to spare himself, and he worked 
to the very last. The manner of his death strikes a 
chord in hearts he never knew. He recognised to the 
fullest extent the duties of his position, and in the 

1 See Travels amongst the Great Andes of the Equator , 1892. 

287 



TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

closing act of his life set a brilliant example of 
fidelity and devotion. For it cannot be doubted 
that, enfeebled as he was, he could have saved him- 
self had he given his attention to self-preservation. 
He took a nobler course ; and, accepting his responsi- 
bility, devoted his whole soul to the welfare of his 
comrades, until, utterly exhausted, he fell staggering 
on the snow. He was already dying. Life was 
flickering, yet the brave spirit said 'It is nothing? 
They placed him in the rear to ease his work. He 
was no longer able even to support himself; he 
dropped to the ground, and in a few minutes 
expired." 1 

1 Signer Sinigaglia wrote a letter to a friend, from which I am 
permitted to quote : " I don't try to tell you of my intense pain 
for Carrel's death. He fell after having saved me, and no 
guide could have done more than he did." Charles Gorret, 
through his brother the Abbe, wrote to me that he entirely 
endorsed what had been said by Signor Sinigaglia, and added, 
" We would have given our own lives to have saved his." 

Jean-Antoine died at the foot of " the little Staircase." On 
the 26th of August his body was brought to Breuil, and upon 
29th it was interred at Valtournanche. At the beginning of 
July 1893 an iron cross was placed on the spot where he 
expired at the expense of Signor Sinigaglia, who went in 
person, along with Charles Gorret, to superintend its erection. 



288 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE WHOLE DUTY OF THE CLIMBER ALPINE 
DISTRESS SIGNALS 

T CANNOT bring this book to a more fitting 
end than by quoting the closing words of a 
famous article in The Alpine Journal by Mr C. E. 
Mathews entitled "The Alpine Obituary." It was 
written twenty years ago, but every season it be- 
comes if possible more true. May all who go 
amongst the mountains lay it to heart ! 

" Mountaineering is extremely dangerous in the 
case of incapable, of imprudent, of thoughtless 
men. But I venture to state that of all the acci- 
dents in our sad obituary, there is hardly one 
which need have happened ; there is hardly one 
which could not have been easily prevented by proper 
caution and proper care. Men get careless and too 
confident. This does not matter or the other does not 
matter. The fact is, that everything matters ; pre- 
cautions should be not only ample but excessive. 

4 The little more, and how much it is, 
And the little less and what worlds away.' 
T 289 






TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE 

" Mountainteering is not dangerous, provided that 
the climber knows his business and takes the 
necessary precautions all within his own control 
to make danger impossible. The prudent climber 
will recollect what he owes to his family and to 
his friends. He will also recollect that he owes 
something to the Alps, and will scorn to bring 
them into disrepute. He will not go on a glacier 
without a rope. He will not climb alone, or with 
a single companion. He will treat a great moun- 
tain with the respect it deserves, and not try to 
rush a dangerous peak with inadequate guiding 
power. He will turn his back steadfastly upon 
mist and storm. He will not go where avalanches 
are in the habit of falling after fresh snow, or 
wander about beneath an overhanging glacier in 
the heat of a summer afternoon. Above all, if 
he loves the mountains for their own sake, for the 
lessons they can teach and the happiness they can 
bring, he will do nothing that can discredit his 
manly pursuit or bring down the ridicule of the 
undiscerning upon the noblest pastime in the world." 



290 



ALPINE DISTRESS SIGNALS 

ALPINE DISTRESS SIGNALS 

No book on climbing should be issued without a. 
reminder to its readers that tourists (who may need it 
even oftener than mountaineers) have a means ready 
to hand by which help can be signalled for if they 
are in difficulties. That in many cases a signal 
might not be seen is no reason for neglecting to learn 
and use the simple code given below and recom- 
mended by the Alpine Club. It has now been 
adopted by all societies of climbers. 

The signal is the repetition of a sound, a wave of 
a flag, or a flash of a lantern at regular intervals at 
the rate of six signals per minute, followed by a 
pause of a minute, and then repeated every alternate 
minute. The reply is the same, except that three 
and not six signals are made in a minute. The 
regular minute's interval is essential to the clearness 
of the code. 




291 



GLOSSARY AND INDEX 



GLOSSARY. 



ALP . . -A summer pasture. 

ARTE . . The crest of a ridge. Sometimes spoken 
of as a knife-edge, if very narrow. 

BERGSCHRUND . A crevasse forming between the snow still 
clinging to the face of a peak, and that 
which has broken away from it. 

COL . .A pass between two peaks. 

COULOIR . . A gully rilled with snow or stones. 

GRAT . . . The same as arete. 

JOCH . . . The same as col. 

KAMM . . The same as arete. 

MORAINE . . See chapter on glaciers, page 7. 

MOULIN . . See chapter on glaciers, page 7. 

NEV . . See chapter on glaciers, page 7. 

PITZ . . . An Engadine name for a peak. 

SCHRUND . . A crevasse. 

SRAC . . A cube of iice, formed by intersecting 
crevasses where a glacier is very steep. 
Called thus after a sort of Chamonix 
cheese, which it is said to resemble. 



INDEX 



ALBULA PASS, 20 

Aletsch glacier, 12, 142 

Aimer, Christian, 29, 50, 51, 71, 

126, 134 

Aimer, Ulrich, 42 
Altels, Ice-avalanche of the, 78 
Anderegg, Jacob, 162 
Anderegg, Melchior, 24, 50, 113, 

162 

d'Angeville, Mademoiselle, 204 
Ardon, 59 

Arkwright, Henry, 98 
Aufdemblatten, Peter, 269 
Avalanches, different kinds of, 15 



B 



BALMAT, 52 

Barnes, Mr G. S., 32 

Bean, Mr, 108 

Bennen, 59, 113, 252 

Bich, J. B., 262 

Bionnassay, Aiguille de, 169 

Birkbeck, Mr, 113 

Blanc, Mont, 3, 92, 107, 162, 203 

Bohren, 52 

Boissonnet, Monsieur, 59 

Borchart, Dr, 150 

Borckhardt, F. C, 269 

Bossons, Glacier des, 9 

Breil, 253 



Brenva Glacier, Ascent of Mont 

Blanc by, 162 
Burckhardt, Herr F., 147 
Burgener, Alexander, 226 



CARRE, GLACIER, 172 

Carrel, J. A., 252, 259, 261, death 

of, 280 

Coolidge, Rev. W. A. B., 30, 171 
Couttet, Sylvain, 89, 99, 109 
Croda Grande, feat of endurance on, 

48 
Croz, Michel, 126, 134, 252 



DAVIES, JOHN, 269 
Dent, Clinton, 58, 221 
Douglas, Lord Francis, 45, 259 
Distress Signals, Alpine, 291 
Dru, Aiguille du, 221 



EIGERJOCH, 208 



FALKNER, MONSIEUR DE, 269 
Fohn Wind, Note on the, 80 



297 



INDEX 



GABELHORN, OBER, 42, 45 

Gardiner, Mr, 170 

Garwood, Mr Edmund, 194 

Glacier tables, 1 1 

Gorret, Charles, 281 

Gosaldo, 48 

Gosset, Mr Philip, 59 

Grass, Hans and Christian, 44 

Greenland, Glaciers of, 7 

Guntner, Dr, 33 

H 

HADOW, Mr, 260 
Hamel, Dr Joseph, 92 
Hartley, Mr Walker, 226 
Haut-de-Cry, 59 
Hinchliff, MrT. W., 122 
Hudson, Rev. C, 113, 269 

I 

IMBODEN, JOSEPH, 5, 30, 35, 

40,84 
Imboden, Roman, 32, 84, 194 



38, 



TUNGFRAU, 147 



K 



KING, Sir H. Seymour, 278 
Klimmer, 150 
Kronig, F., 269 



LAMMER, Herr, 72 
Lauener, 41, 52, 66, 208 
Longman, W., 142 
Lorria, Herr, 72 



298 



M 

M'CORKINDALE, Mr, loS 
Mammoth, 105 
Maquignaz, J. P. and D., 269 
Martin, Jean, 154 
Mather, Mr, 113 
Mathews, Mr C. E., 289 
Mathews, Messrs, 208 
Matterhorn, 23, 72, 250 
Maurer, Andreas, 46, 226 
Maurer, Kaspar, 239 
Meije, 170 
Mercer, Mr, 269 
Miage, Col. de, 114 
Morning, Pass, 126 
Moore, Mr, 126, 134, 162 
Moraines, 10 
Moser, 269 

N 
NASSE, Herr, 150 

P 

PALU, Piz, 44, 150 
Paradis, Maria, 203 
Penhall, Mr, 72 
Perren, 113 

Pigeon, The Misses, 153 
Pilatte, Col. de, 134 
Pilkington, Messrs, 170 
Plan, Aiguille du, 46 



RANDALL, Mr, 108 

Rey, Emile, 46 

Reynaud, Monsieur, 135 

Richardson, Miss K., 169 

Riva, Valley Susa, 18 

Rochat, Mademoiselle E. de, 169 



INDEX 



SAAS, Prattigau, 17 
Schallihorn, 83 
Schnitzler, 150 
Schuster, Oscar, 48 
Scerscen, Piz, 194 
Sesia, Joch, 153 
Siuigaglia, Leone, 281 
Stephen, Sir Leslie, 113, 208 
Stratton, Miss, 206 



TAUGWALD, Peter, 269 
Taugwalder, 259 



Trift Pass, 112 

Tuckett, Mr F. F., 66, 113 

W 

WAINWRIGHT, Mrs and Dr, 44 

Walker, Mr, 50, 134, 162 

Wetterhorn, 51 

Wieland, 194 

Wills, Chief Justice, 51 

Whymper, Mr C, 126, 134, 250 



ZECCHINI, G., 48 




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JAN 5 1999 



1999 



12,000(11/95) 




LD21-100m-7,'39(402s) 



38322